Looking to secure a spot in the California Collegiate League Championship series, the Santa Barbara Foresters fell short of clinching the North Division on the San Luis Obispo Blues field after losing 5-1 Thursday night.
The Blues struck first in the first inning, as one crossed against Keaton Siomkin thanks in part to a two-out walk to Michael Pritchard. Jimmy Allen followed up with a RBI to push the first run home.
Another run came home in the third and the damage could have been worse if not for the impressive arms of two Forester defenders. A leadoff walk to Will Maddox and an error on a groundball by Allen put two men on base.
Pritchard blooped a single to shallow centerfield on a check swing to score Maddox, but a strong throw by Louie Lechich and a swinging tag by Hunter Kopycinski beat Allen according to the home plate umpire. Kopycinski then threw out Pritchard as he attempted to steal second and the inning came to an end with only one across.
The first sign of life from the Forester offense came in the sixth inning after loading the bases with no outs. Keaton Jones and Colt Atwood each recorded an infield single and Garrett Mattlage’s bunt attempt rolled its way into a single as well.
Joey Epperson stood at the plate with the bases loaded and no-outs, but struck out. Ryan O’Hearn and Lechich followed suit and the middle of the Forester lineup was struck out in order to leave the bases loaded.
While the Foresters made nothing of their opportunity in the sixth, the Blues put another three on the board. After two singles to open inning, a sacrifice bunt moved each man up on the basepaths. What appeared to be a sacrifice fly by Andrew Lee turned into more trouble for the Foresters. Lechich and Austin Darby struggled to decide whose ball it was, and it fell in after Lechich reached for it just before hitting the ground.
With a run coming home on the error, a comebacker off of Siomkin’s glove pushed another home and after Justin Rahn entered, a sacrifice fly added a third to make it a 5-0 game.
Backed against the wall in the top of the eighth inning, the Foresters again loaded the bases. With one out, Joey Epperson walked and Ryan O’Hearn reached base after being hit by the pitch. Ben Johnson pinch hit for Louie Lechich and walked with one out.
Blues pitcher Tyler King then walked Shane Hoelscher to force in the first Forester run of the game, but Darby grounded into a double play to end the inning and the final threat.
Rahn would help conserve the Forester bullpen for the crucial Friday game, with two and two-thirds pitched, striking out and walking one apiece.
Friday night’s game against the Santa Paula Halos still does not require a win to advance to the CCL Championship Series. Even with a loss, the Foresters would win the division if the Blues lose against the Conejo Oaks in San Luis Obispo.