Photo by Vic Neumann
By Will Bashur
Third time was the charm for Academy Barons pitcher Erik Gutierrez, who threw seven quality innings in his third start against the Foresters to propel the Barons to a 5-4 victory over Santa Barbara. Gutierrez had lost his previous two starts against the ’Sters, but exploited the weaknesses of the Foresters’ offense on Tuesday to gain his first win of the summer.
Santa Barbara looked to be off to a hot start in the early going, but the offensive spark was short-lived.
In the first, Logan Allen lead off with his team-leading twelfth hit-by-pitch. After Ryan Cash and Luke Ritter were retired, Cameron Warren smoked a hard grounder down the line to third baseman Christian Lucio. Lucio performed a slick spin move to spear the ball, but couldn’t throw out Warren, and allowed Allen to score from third. With Warren’s single, Santa Barbara took a quick 1-0 lead.
Foresters starter Michael Hobbs came out of the gates firing strikes. The St. Mary’s Gael threw nearly two thirds of his pitches for strikes, giving up just one hit and one walk. Hobbs struck out two Barons on his way to three scoreless innings.
As soon as Hobbs was removed, the Barons’ offense pounced on the ’Sters.
James Notary entered in the fourth in relief of Hobbs, and the Academy quickly put up two runs. After Notary retired the first batter of the inning, he walked Adam Cendejas, then surrendered two sharp singles. With the bases loaded, Barons right fielder Andrew Wilson laced a two-RBI single into right field to give the Barons a 2-1 advantage.
By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Gutierrez had retired fourteen consecutive Foresters since his rough first frame. Unfortunately for Gutierrez, his defense contributed to snapping the impressive streak.
Allen started the sixth by reaching on a fielding error by the third baseman Lucio. Cash followed with a bloop single that allowed Allen to advance to third. After Ritter went down on strikes, Warren stepped to the plate. Determined to pick Cash off first, Gutierrez used a deceptive pickoff move to get Cash caught in a run down. While Cash was running back and forth, shortstop Daniel Harris missed a throw from first baseman Adam Cendejas, and the ball rolled into the outfield as Allen scurried home. With the bizarre error, the ’Sters tied the game at two apiece at the end of six.
The Foresters’ defensive blunders allowed the Barons to quickly retake the lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Academy immediately put runners on the corners following a double, stolen base, and a walk. After the walk, Nico O’Donnell was summoned to bail out Notary. On his third pitch, O’Donnell induced a ground ball to the shortstop Brandon Zaragoza. Zaragoza had to range to his right to field the ball, then attempted to make a difficult throw across his body to second. Unfortunately, his throw was well past the reach of the second baseman Cash, and two Barons scored as the ball rolled to the fence behind first base. Desmond Gates drove in another run with a two-out single, and in the blink of an eye the Barons were up 5-2.
Santa Barbara was in an unfamiliar position trailing heading into the ninth, but they didn’t want to go down without a fight.
Utah Jones started a furious rally with a bunt single, which was followed by a Tyler Hardman single. Pinch runner Kamron Fields entered for Hardman, and Zaragoza drove in Jones with his own single to bring the ’Sters within two. Allen loaded the bases by getting plunked in his elbow for the second time on the day, and Fields scored on a wild pitch with Ritter at the plate to cut the deficit to 5-4. Ritter walked and loaded the bases again as Warren entered the batter’s box. Unfortunately, Warren popped out, and the Foresters’ rally was abruptly put to rest.
Santa Barbara will turn right back around tomorrow to take on the Barons again in Compton at 6 PM. Be sure to tune into 1290 AM for full coverage of the game.