With a balanced offense producing consistently throughout Tuesday night’s game and a solid starting debut by Louie Lechich, the Santa Barbara Foresters held off the Conejo Oaks 6-4.
Following an off day Monday, Foresters returned to action trailing the idle San Luis Obispo Blues by a half game in the California Collegiate League North Division. With the win, they draw even with the Blues for first in the division with eight games remaining on the league schedule.
Highlighting the game was an odd end to the bottom of the seventh inning. After catching an Oak in between second and third, the Foresters appeared to end the inning with Shane Hoelscher tagging out the runner diving into third.
With the Foresters leaving the field, the umpires gathered and changed the call, ordering Santa Barbara to return to defense with two outs, men on second and third. Manager Bill Pintard argued the change and the man advancing to second while the out had originally been called, eventually being ejected by the home plate umpire after making a pitching change.
Invalidating the whole situation was Justin Rahn, who worked a 3-0 count before striking out the Ivan Vela on a check swing with the tying run standing on second.
In actual game action, Lechich started his first game of the year after three relief appearances, throwing six and a third innings with four runs charged to him. The lefty from the University of San Diego struck out three, walked one and allowed eight hits.
The Oaks opened the scoring in the first inning thanks to a leadoff double by Nick Morelli, who came home on a one out single by Bryan Langlois to take a 1-0 lead.
Santa Barbara responded in the top half of the second, placing men on second and third with one out.
Ryan O’Hearn led off with a single, but was forced out on a grounder by Ben Johnson. Two errors on balls hit to the infield by Hoelscher and Austin Darby, with a run scoring on Darby’s, allowed the inning to continue.
With the extra outs thanks to the Oaks’ defense, Jerry McClanahan laid down a perfect one-out squeeze up the first baseline, to drive Hoelscher home and push the score to a 2-1 Forester lead.
To lead off the third, Garrett Mattlage levelled a towering home run over the right field foul pole 320 feet away from home plate and the Foresters took a 3-1 lead.
Conejo responded with another run in the third against the Foresters, after a leadoff single by Langlois and moved to third on an error by O’Hearn. Taylor Hansen drove in Longlois with a sacrifice to center field to cut the Forester lead to 3-2.
In the fifth inning, the Foresters extended their lead to 5-2 thanks to three singles and a walk. Keaton Jones led off with a single, but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Colt Atwood. Mattlage singled and Joey Epperson walked to loaded up the bases for O’Hearn, who promptly moved everyone up 90 feet on a RBI single to right.
Johnson followed up to add another on a sacrifice fly to right, moving the score to a 5-2 Forester lead.
Continuing to tack runs on the scoreboard, the Foresters put up another as Atwood led off with a single. Atwood moved all the way to third after Oak pitcher Dalton Brown attempted to force out him at second base on Mattlage’s sacrifice bunt.
With men on first and third, Epperson sacrifice flied in Atwood, who barely beat the throw home. Six different Foresters drove in the six runs against the Oaks.
Hunter Lemke entered in the ninth, downing the Oaks 1-2-3 and registering a strikeout for the save.