Sters 5-Vegas 3
by Nate Loop
The Foresters were down 3-2 to Team Vegas with four outs left on their season. It didn’t seem right. The ‘Sters couldn’t lose. Not on the last home game of the season, riding an eight game winning streak. Not with just one last victory standing between them and a share of the 2012 California Collegiate League crown. And certainly not in front of the largest crowd of the summer.
And guess what? They didn’t lose. The Foresters staged a stunning two-out rally in the bottom of the eight inning, with the key hit a two run double by third baseman Shane Hoelscher, for the come from behind victory. They won 5-3 and sent the team to Wichita with high spirits as the co-champions of the CCL. Their first game at the NBC World Series is scheduled for 5:30 pm Santa Barbara time vs. the Austin Gold Sox; hear it on AM 1290 or newspress.com.
Before the game, the Foresters players thanked their host families, presenting them with thank-you plaques. But those good vibes nearly died out completely as soon as the game started, as Foresters starter Andrew Vasquez got off to a rough start. Vasquez struggled with his control, hitting two batters and throwing a key wild pitch that led to a quick 2-0 lead for the visiting team.
With runners on second and third, Vegas first baseman Marvin Campbell hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to drive in the first run. Ethan Heirrera then drove in Jordan Stewart from second on a soft grounder that just escaped the right side of the infield.
The Foresters, not to be outdone, came right out and scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning against Vegas starter Kagan Richardson to tie the game. Shortstop Richy Pedroza scored the first run of the game on a throwing error by Vegas right fielder Kyle Bilbrey. Pedroza was moving from first to third on a single by Richard Sanguinetti, and Bilbrey’s throw sailed high and out of play, and the umpires awarded Pedroza home base. Sanguinetti also took second base on the play.
Jacob Felts then drove in Sanguinetti on a single of his own for the second run.
The dust then had plenty of time to settle after that wild first inning, as neither team was able to generate much offense after that, as both Richardson and Vasquez regained their composure on their way to fine pitching performances.
Vasquez, now in complete command of his lethal slider, was especially successful. He finished after five innings, striking out a total of 10 Vegas batters.
The crowd began to get restless, as the both teams were having trouble coming up with great scoring opportunities.
As the game moved in to the top of the seventh inning, the score was still deadlocked at 2-2, before Team Vegas finally broke through.
The Foresters had Ian McCarthy on the moundin his second inning of work in relief of Vasquez. With one out, McCarthy hit Eric Swain with a pitch. Swain bravely stole second base on the third strike to the next batter Jory Goldstrom. John Sewald then cashed in Swain for the 3-2 lead on a single to center field, putting all the pressure on the Foresters.
The Foresters went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, eliciting groans from the crowd, as they were coming to terms with the possibility of the witnessing the Foresters lose a championship-deciding game.
Things didn’t look much more promising in the bottom of the eight, as Ryan O’Hearn and Jacob Felts were both sent back the the dugout easily by Richardson, in his eighth inning of work.
With four outs left to work with, Austin Davidson set the wheels in motion, and reached first on a single.
All of a sudden it looked like batting practice for the Sters, as Robert Vickers confidently stroked a single into center field, moving Davidson to third base. Whatever mojo Richardson had been working with since the second inning was gone. Manager Bill Pintard had Luke Plucheck pinch run for the hobbled Vickers.
After a long visit to the mound, Shane Hoelscher stepped into the batter’s box, with his team down by one run and Davidson 90 feet from tying up the ball game. As the crowd roared its approval, Hoelscher ripped a no-doubt-about-it double into the gap in right-center field, and Davidson and Plucheck both came around to score. One swing, two runs, and a Foresters lead.
As Vegas reliever Casey Greene came in to take his warm-up pitches, Hoelscher walked over the foul line and was greeted with high-fives and fist bumps from the coaches and players, the cheering of the capacity crowd the perfect sonic backdrop to the scene on the playing field.
The Foresters weren’t done in the inning, and got another run courtesy of Taylor Stell, who’s single allowed Hoelscher to cross home plate to a hero’s welcome.
With the Foresters now all of a sudden up 5-3, it was time for closer Hunter Lemke to finish off the job.
He didn’t exactly make it look easy, as Ferreira led off with a single. Lemke then got Hanley and Swain to strike out swinging, before giving up another single to Kris Kaplan.
With the winning run at the plate in the form of John Sewald, the fans spurred Lemke on, cranking up the decibels with every pitch. Lemke did not disappoint, and Sewald went down swinging on strikes, a fitting end to the Foresters season that has been characterized by a dominant pitching staff.
T.J. McGreevey picked up the win, as he was the pitcher of record in the eight inning. It was his third win of the season, all of which he had picked up in the past week.
The game was followed by a nice ceremony emceed by Foresters board member Jim Buckley, in which he recognized the people who make the Foresters season possible: sponsors, coaches, staff, stadium workers, board members . . . you name it.
The Foresters now head to Wichita to defend their NBC World Series crown. Gerry Fall will be on the call on behalf of KZSB, and fans can tune in by clicking on the link at the top of the home page.