By Jim Buckley
CCL California State Championship Game
Crisp, efficient, ruthless: The Foresters put together a nearly perfect outing to beat Healdsburg 6-1 and win the CCL California State Championship. The pitching staff, the hitters, the defense, and the coaching staff were in title-winning sync. The Foresters leave Tuesday to defend their NBC World Series championship in Wichita. In addition, the win was No. 999 in the incredible 25-year career of manager Bill Pintard.
Asked what he thinks about having the chance for No. 1000 in Wichita, Pintard laughed, and said, “I’ve been my spending my summer vacation there for 25 years, so it makes sense.”
His players took him one step closer to that monumental achievement with a total team effort.
Starter Jake Jackson gave the Foresters just what they needed: relative silence from the Packers’ bats. He scattered six hits in his five innings, walking none and allowing only a pop-fly home run. Kevin Larson threw two nearly perfect relief innings, including a four-pitch seventh. Jacob Burton issued the Sters’ first walk in the eighth, but then went 1-2-3. In the ninth, Brad Demco struck out the side for an exclamation point.
“Larson picked us up big-time, and Jackson gave us two more innings than we thought,” Pintard said afterward. “I also thought Ross Cadena did a great job calling pitches and keeping those guys off-balance.”
“I was just out there doing my thing today,” said Jackson, who will not be able to make the trip to Wichita. “I wanted to leave on a good note. I pitched to contact and I knew my defense would have my back.”
“It’s always fun to compete in a game like that,” Larson added. “I had a good talk with coach Pintard and Zach Presno, my Fresno State teammate. That really helped me prepare.”
The Foresters offense provided steady support, reaching base in all but one inning. Five runs in the first four innings supported the solid pitching.
Add in stellar defense highlighted by a leaping grab by shortstop Dru Baker, a sliding catch by rightfielder Blake Hall, and Ross Cadena throwing out the only steal attempt and you’ve got a complete performance by a championship team.
“Our guys are playing hard, but they keep battling,” Pintard added.
After both teams threatened but did not score in the first, Healdsburg’s John Lagattuta hit the first pitch he saw in the second for a home run to the right field corner, so close to going foul that it hit the screen on the foul pole.
Santa Barbara got that run back and more in the third. Ryan Cash reached on a walk and moved around to third, where Cadena drove him in with a two-strike single. Christian Franklin then drove a pitch high over the right-centerfield for a two-run homer and a 3-1 lead that Santa Barbara never gave up.
Cash continued his recent clutch hitting in the fourth. After Jacob Katzfey reached on a single and stole second, Cash drove a single to center to make the score 4-1. That chased the Packers starting pitcher. With Cash on second after the throw trying to get Katzfey, Eric Kennedy greeted the reliever with a run-scoring double to the rightfield corner. Katzfey finished a home run shy of the cycle for the game.
Cadena helped the offense, too, when he led off the sixth with a double. After advancing on a passed ball, he scored on a Nick Bellafronto single through a drawn-in infield for what turned out to be the final run.
Turning the game over the bullpen was once again the recipe for success, and the team surrounded Demco after the final out. CCL Commissioner Pat Burns handed the Sters their second trophy of the weekend. After the game, Pintard pointed out the had met all their goals except one. Completion of that task begins Friday. Visit sbforesters.org and our Facebook page for updates from Wichita.