National Champions . . . Again!!
By Jim Buckley
For the second time in two years and the fourth time since 2006, the Santa Barbara Foresters are the National Champions! A 6-2 victory over the Seattle Studs made the Foresters the first back-to-back title winners since 1994. Don’t worry . . . we’ll start planning the victory party and let you know!
To capture this year’s championship, Foresters starter John Beck was nails, coming up with his best outing of the summer—and given the situation, one of the best of the tournament by any pitcher—shutting down a Seattle team that had scored a tournament-best 35 runs heading into Saturday.
Meanwhile, Studs starter David Benson came in not having given up a run in 16 innings in NBC play. The streak ended early when Austin Davidson, named after the game to the All-American team and as the top hitter in the tournament, took care of that in the second inning, driving a single to right after Robert Vickers double. That gave Davidson a team-high seven RBI in Wichita.
But Santa Barbara wasn’t done. Felts then sacrificed Davidson to second, and with two outs, Shane Hoelscher drove him in with a single to center. After a Zach Fish single put runners at the corners, a two-out bloop double by Arby Fields scored Hoelscher and chased Benson from the game.
Zach Fish added another run with a leadoff homer in the fifth inning, the first round-tripper by Santa Barbara in the tournament. The dinger was one of three hits on the night for the Sters’ rightfielder, who was named the NBC World Series Most Valuable Player.
The Studs had led tournament in scoring, but Beck kept them in check. He was solid early, showing off a very strong fastball by striking out side in second after a leadoff hit. He did it again in the fourth, the final two Ks coming with a runner on second. In the fifth and sixth, he also notched key strikeouts with men on base for Seattle.
Through 6 1/3, Beck gave up only four hits and struck out 10 before giving way to Willie Kuhl, also an All-American award winner. Kuhl got the groundout he wanted, but Ryan O’Hearn threw the ball out of the reach of Richy Pedroza at short. That brought in the first run of the game for Seattle. After Kuhl got another out, Albert Minnis came in to face the lefty BJ Tannehill and got the final out of the inning.
But just when Seattle thought they might be creeping back into it, the Foresters re-created and added to their four-run lead in the bottom of the inning, when Richy Pedroza smacked a two-out double that scored Arby Fields, who had walked and stolen second. Pedroza himself scored when Richard Sanguinetti looped one into right center.
Seattle got a man to third in the eighth, and he scored on a groundout after Jason Hursh took over for the Foresters on the mound. But that was it, as Hursh shut down the Studs down in the ninth to close it out.
In 2011, the Foresters beat Kenai Oilers 1–0.
In 2009, the Foresters beat the Studs 2–0.
In 2006, the Foresters won their first title with an 8–7 win over the Derby Twins.
Oh, yes, and in 2003, they won the American championship, making it to the final game, but losing to a team from Taiwan.
That’s an unmatched record of achievement.
(Photo by Eric Isaacs; visit www.emiphoto.com for more from the NBC World Series; pix from the final game should be up Sunday afternoon.)