Photo by Vic Neumann
By Will Bashur
While La Fiesta was taking over the streets of Santa Barbara, the Foresters brought a party of their own to Wichita, going on a hit parade to wallop the Lonestar Baseball Club 18-5 in a five-inning game shortened by an NBC mercy rule. The ’Sters tallied twelve hits in the abbreviated game, and had five hitters rack up two or more RBI.
Third base coach Taylor Smart explained the offensive outburst, saying the extra rest the ’Sters had before arriving in Wichita was critical.
“The team was refreshed from having a couple days off, we got in good practice the last day or so, and you know we took advantage of what they gave us with all the walks  and hit batters . It made our job a lot easier with all the baserunners they were putting on.”
Logan Allen, who had been nursing an injured right shoulder, got the start as the DH, and immediately sparked the Foresters’ offense with a leadoff double to the right-center gap. New ’Ster Brandon Lewis, who had been with Conejo all summer, followed with a triple to drive in Allen, giving the Foresters a quick 1-0 lead. Lewis got a lucky break on his hit, as the line drive bounced right off the turf outfield and over the head of Lonestar left fielder Jesse Rubinett. Two pitches later, Lewis came home on a costly balk by Lonestar starter Austin Hinkle, pushing the lead to 2-0.
Smart liked what he saw as soon as the ’Sters took the field. “We got off to a good start in the first inning, Logan hadn’t played in a while, but he led off with that double and kickstarted our offense.”
After being held scoreless in the second, Santa Barbara’s bats exploded, scoring six runs off Lonestar reliever Brayden Shields. The scoring began with Cameron Warren’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly that scored Allen. After Michael Neustifter walked, another Oak-turned-Forester, Elijah Alexander, stepped up to the plate, and drove in Lewis with an RBI groundout to first. Ryan Cash then delivered with a sharp single up the middle, scoring Luke Ritter and Neustifter. After the third new Wichita addition, Slade Heggen, was plunked in the back, Brandon Zaragoza drove in Ryan Cash with a sharp liner to left. Allen came up for the second time in the inning as the Foresters batted around, and knocked a single into center to give the ‘Sters a commanding 8-0 after two and a half.
Foresters fans might wonder at the new players, but a slew of late-season injuries created a need, and manager Bill Pintard added five new offensive players to the ballclub, four of whom saw action Friday.
Foresters starter Tanner Bibee silenced the Lonestar hitters through the first two innings, and looked poised to do so again in the third.
Bibee started the third by inducing a weak ground ball off the bat of Alex Cornman, but then allowed Charlie Overstreet to reach on a bloop single. Center fielder Ryan McPhail then stepped into the box, and bunted the first pitch he saw into the air, landing softly in Lewis’s glove for a quick second out. Suddenly, Bibee lost his release point, and walked the next two batters to load the bases. Coach Bill Pintard then went to the mound to help Bibee relax and regain focus. Bibee did find the strike zone after Pintard’s visit, but he also found the barrel of cleanup hitter Mitchell Caskey’s bat, which launched a grand slam off a first-pitch fastball. Sters reliever Hunter Breault entered immediately after the slam and bailed out Bibee, but the lead had been sliced in half as Lonestar trailed 8-4 at the end of three.
The ’Sters were clearly eager to get those runs back, as they pounded Lonestar pitching to score an astounding ten runs in the fourth.
Lonestar hurler Grant Hurn had a nightmarish fourth inning, as Santa Barbara sent fourteen batters to the plate. Hurn gave up three hits and walked four batters as he completely lost his sense of the strike zone, allowing the Foresters to jump to a 13-4 lead. Even when Hurn appeared to be lobbing the ball to home plate in a desperate attempt to get a strike call, he had no such luck. Jamie League entered in relief of Hurn, but he couldn’t find the zone either, as he hit Ritter on his first pitch to give Santa Barbara their 14th run of the night. To add injury to insult, Utah Jones followed Ritter with a pop up that dropped in front of the left fielder Rubinett, a ball that bounced over his head for the second time in the game. The auspicious bounce allowed all three Foresters runners to score, giving Santa Barbara a ridiculous 17-4 lead. Neustifter drove in Jones with a booming double that nearly left the park, and the Foresters grabbed an 18-4 lead at the end of three and a half.
Lonestar added one more run off Breault in the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back doubles from Chase Salinas and Rubinett. But that would be all the fun Lonestar would have, as Breault worked his way out of the fourth and Michael Hobbs threw a scoreless fifth to end the game by mercy rule.In Wichita, if a team leads by 10 runs or more after five complete innings, the game is over.
Santa Barbara will be off on Saturday, and will face the winner of the Sunday-night Seattle Studs and Dodge City A’s game as they continue pool play in Wichita. More details about the timing of the game will be released on Saturday. As always, be sure to check our Web site and tune into 1290 AM for complete coverage of the game.