Third time is the charm for the Santa Barbara Foresters, as they defeated the Conejo Oaks for the first time this season, 4-1, on a muggy evening in Thousand Oaks. Pitching ruled once again for the Sters, as the staff combined for 11 strikeouts while only giving up 1 run to their division rival.
Keaton “Bulldog” Siomkin battled through jams in the first, second, and fourth innings, stranding 4 runners in scoring position, highlighted by his striking out the side after giving up a leadoff double in the second. The pitcher from Cal earned his second win of the season after giving up just 1 run in 5 innings while striking out 5 on 74 pitches.
It looked like Siomkin wasn’t going to get much run support for the fourth straight start early on. The Sters scattered three singles across the first four innings, one of which came after Joey Epperson was picked off first base.
Luckily, the Foresters rallied in the top of the fifth, responding to the lone run that the Oaks would push across all game in the fourth. Austin Darby started off the inning with an infield single to the shortstop and was then sacrificed to second base by Hunter Kopycinski. After a popup by Keaton Jones, Colt Atwood and Ben Johnson loaded the bases on a walk and a hit by pitch respectively. Joey Epperson then continued his hot hitting since joining the Sters, nailing a seed over the center fielder’s head that would of cleared the bases had it not bounced over the wall for a ground rule double.
Since joining the Foresters, Epperson has added a consistent bat to a lineup that has lacked one with Tyler Krieger and Jacob Felts being out with injuries. The Sters are 5-2 with him in the lineup, as Epperson has batted .500 with 10 RBIs. He finished 3-4 on the night with 2 doubles.
Santa Barbara never relinquished their lead the rest of the way, keeping the Oaks’ bats quiet with another quality performance from the bullpen.
UCSB’s Andrew Vazquez held the Sters’ lead through the sixth and seventh innings, going 1-2-3 in his first inning of work and battling through a walk and a broken bat single in the next to keep Conejo off the scoreboard. He finished with 2 strikeouts while giving up just the 1 hit.
Finishing off the Foresters victory was Jordan Stephens from Rice, who baffled hitters with a quirky pitching delivery and a lively slider that seemed to cut at the last minute, repeatedly leaving the Oaks whiffing. He struck out the side in the eighth and recorded a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, finishing with 4 strikeouts and his first save of the season.
Stephens received a couple insurance runs in the top half of the ninth, making the bottom half a little less nerve wracking. Kopycinski reached on an error by the first baseman to start the inning and was moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Jones. Atwood, Johnson, and Epperson followed with a double and two singles, stretching the Sters lead to 3. The game was almost put out of reach for good when Garrett Mattlage hit a deep fly ball to right field, but it was caught on the warning track.
The Sters finished with 10 hits on the game, paced by 3 singles from third baseman Shane Hoelscher and a couple hits by Atwood.
Returning to the Foresters tonight was University of Nebraska outfielder Austin Darby, who had been sidelined with a hip issue since June 26th. He went 1-4, scoring the Sters’ first run in the fifth inning.
The losing pitcher for the Conejo Oaks was Shelton Ekstrand from the University of San Diego. The righty yielded 2 runs in 6 innings while striking out 4.
The Oaks prevailed the previous two times that the teams squared off, winning 9-8 and 5-3. The victory is the fourth straight for the Sters, putting them at 12-8 in California Collegiate League play this season and 19-8-1 overall.