By Taylor Jennings
Lights-out pitching, lightning on the basepaths, and a CCL batting champion, and the chase for 1,000 Ws—there were storylines aplenty throughout the 2019 Santa Barbara Foresters season en route to their CCL and State Championships. As the team prepares to play in the NBC World Series on Friday August 2 at 5 pm SB time, here’s a look back at what Foresters fans have enjoyed so far.
Early on, Santa Barbara found success with an elite starting rotation anchored by Luke Taggart, Isaac Coffey, and Jake Jackson. With the arrival of Auburn Saturday starter Brooks Fuller and Ryan Bergert’s seamless transition from the back end of the bullpen to the rotation, the ’Sters were able to hand the ball to a bona fide CCL ace Tuesday through Sunday of each week.
Between Coffey (0.98 ERA in CCL play), Bergert (1.99), and Fuller (2.05), the ’Sters boast three of the seven lowest ERAs in the league in their starting rotation, and that’s without mentioning Brad Demco, whose video game numbers included the only perfect ERA in the CCL. In his 19 ⅔ innings, the southpaw has tallied an incredible 38 strikeouts and surrendered only two hits all summer. With Demco, Hunter Breault, Nico O’Donnell, Clayton Beeter, and Christian Winston, among others, the Foresters sent truly elite arm talent to the mound in the late innings night in and night out. Incredibly, those five relievers combined to allow just eight runs this season; they will undoubtedly be key contributors if the ’Sters make another run at glory in Wichita.
Meanwhile, the Foresters’ offense certainly cannot be overlooked. The SB lineup was headlined by outfielder Eric Kennedy from start to finish. The CCL’s only .400 hitter also led the league with 21 stolen bases (24/26 overall) and was a run producer atop the lineup all season. The Texas Longhorn finished first on the team in extra-base hits and was one of only three CCL hitters to have an OPS over 1.000 among qualifiers (the other two hit behind him for the ’Sters as well!).
The highest OPS in the CCL belonged to Nick Bellafronto (1.032 OPS), who proved to be a major addition to the lineup at the end of June. Along with Christian Franklin, the third and final member of the 1.000 OPS Club and another late arrival to the club, Bellafronto helped ignite a potent and explosive Foresters’ offense throughout the month of July.
Connor McKenna also finished in the top 10 in the CCL in batting average (.333) to give the ’Sters 4 of the top 10 hitters in the league. Meanwhile, Zach Presno proved to be a menace for opposing pitching as well. The slugger led the squad in homers (6), RBI (28), and walks (25).
Incredibly, the Foresters lineup only seems to be improving. After scoring six or more runs in 12 of the team’s last 13 regular season games, the ’Sters averaged 6 runs per contest in wrapping up the postseason CCL title over Arroyo Seco and in taking 2 of 3 from Healdsburg during the inaugural state championship series against the northern Affiliate Division Champions.
The 2019 summer campaign has been chock full of signature moments. In the CCL Prospect Game in Compton, the ’Sters were represented by a league-high 10 players. Led by their own head coach, Bill Pintard, the Foresters put on a pitching clinic in leading the Nationals to a comfortable 5-1 victory. Hunter Breault’s stellar “strikeout the side” inning earned him MVP honors.
From their tenth-inning walk-off win over Conejo in the CCL opener to Coach Pintard’s 999th victory in the winner-take-all third game of the State Championship, the 2019 Foresters’ season has been an unbelievable ride. In compiling their 33-10 record to this point, Santa Barbara has given the Forester Faithful yet another memorable and remarkable summer. As the ‘Sters head to Wichita in an attempt to complete the trifecta as CCL, State, and National Champions, here’s to the memories, to the journey, and to the prospect of history in the making.
Keep your radio dialed to AM 1290 for all the rest of the Foresters action!