By Jim Buckley
CCL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
July 26, 2019
Cue the music (and a sigh of relief). The Foresters won the 2019 CCL Championship Game, holding off the Saints 10-9. The team was presented with the championship trophy on the field at Cal Lutheran by CCL Commissioner Pat Burns. The victory sends the Foresters to the best-of-three California State Championship against the Healdsburg Prune Packers on Saturday, starting at noon.
“It was a great game, but it’s never easy!” Said manager Bill Pintard. “We came out like gangbusters and I thought that was the best game [Foresters starter Ryan] Bergert has thrown for us, but we probably left him in a bit long. It was a great team win.”
Before the celebration, however, the game had been like a seesaw, with the Foresters on the upswing early, while the Saints rose up to within one in the seventh. Santa Barbara had a 9-2 lead heading into the fifth, but the Saints scratched and clawed their way to within two runs. The SB bullpen, however, settled the issue by allowing only two runs in their four and a third innings of work.
The Foresters’ offense was study in contrasts, scoring nine runs in the first four innings, then going into hibernation midgame. That left room for the Saints to climb back into the game, with a five-run fifth helping to close the deficit to two at 9-7 in the seventh. Even after the Saints pulled to 9-8, SB answered with a key run that was the difference in final 10-9.
As he has all season, Erik Kennedy got things started in the first, reaching on an infield single that led to a throwing error, putting him in scoring position. Nick Bellafronto brought him home with an inside-out double to right. Christian Franklin made it back-to-back two-baggers to score Bellafronto. After a strikeout, Ross Cadena drove in Cadena to wrap up the scoring in the inning.
In the second, Ryan Cash reached on a hit and stole second. After advancing to third on a groundout, Cash came in on broken-bat single to right by Bellafronto.
The third inning continued the theme thanks to a two-out single by Ryan Cash and a bases-loaded walk to Franklin.
The two-out hit continued a “summer of clutch” for Cash, who has repeatedly come through with runners in scoring position.
“I just got locked in, trying to get the job done,” he said. “I’m working on doing that for every at-bat, of course
In the fourth, Bergert was finally touched for a hit, which was followed by a home run by Jayson Gonzalez. The Saints’ joy at scoring was short-lived, however, as Blake Hall got both runs back with a homer of his own, scoring Cadena ahead of him.
“Finally!” Laughed Hall after the game following the on-field fitting for the championship rings. “That felt really good because I’ve been getting a hard time for not hitting a homer this summer, so it felt great to squeeze one in.”
Down 9-2, the Saints did not go marching away quietly, tagging Bergert for three runs on a single and a pair of doubles to pull within four at 9-5. A line-drive single scored a sixth run and that was it for Bergert. The inning had opened up when Bellafronto made his second error of the game, missing an infield pop that would have been the second out. Conner Woods came on in relief, but gave up a line-drive double over Blake Hall’s head in right to make the score 9-7.
In the seventh, after back-to-back doubles again gave the Saints a run, the Foresters answered, as they have all season, by taking one back of their own. Christian Franklin drove a long out to center that score Cash for the third-year second baseman’s third run of the game. That run proved crucial as the scrappy Saints scratched out a run against Hunter Breault in the ninth and left the tying run on second.
Knowing they have more to do this weekend—and in Wichita—the Foresters had a pleasant but subdued celebration. The quest for another title begins about 12 hours from now. Listen to all the action at noon on AM 1290. The second game will begin 30 minutes after the first. The games will be at Cal Lutheran; tickets will be sold at the gate if you’d like to be part of the fun.