By Jim Buckley (Photo by Kylie Koeper)
Thursday night, Foresters fans, we really missed you. You would have loved it. Tied 4-4 in the tenth, two down, men on second and third, and Nick Oakley, local boy/SB Don made good, laid down an impeccable drag bunt hit, scampering across first as Noah Cardenas crossed home with the walk-off winning run. Outstanding, as Oakley’s mini-private cheering section in right field attested. The 5-4 win over the Santa Maria Pea Soup wrapped up the season series at 11-1 in favor of the ’Sters.
(The Foresters also officially accepted an invitation to play once again in the NBC World Series in Wichita. The team has its first game scheduled for 6:30 Santa Barbara time on Tuesday, August 4. More details will be posted this weekend so fans can learn how to watch and/or listen.)
“We didn’t call the bunt, Nick did it on his own,” said manager Bill Pintard. “It was a gamble, but it was a perfect bunt. It was really exciting. Kudos to him to him for having the guts to do what he did.”
“It was a lefty first baseman, so it was a little harder play for him,” said a damp Oakley after his teammates first mobbed and then doused him. “I saw that and thought, why not try it? It’s summer ball! We bunt every day at practice, and Bill encourages us to try things if we can.”
The Foresters had placed Oakley in that spot by coming back from a 4-2 deficit with two in the fifth. Matthew McLain led off with a huge triple to deep right field. The throw to third ended up in the dugout and McLain trotted home to make it 4-3. After 1B Bryce Warrecker reached on an error, he came around to score the tying run on yet another clutch hit by C Noah Cardenas.
After that, a procession of Foresters relievers kept the Soup from bubbling over to set up the dramatic tenth.
“I thought our relief pitching was very solid. They kept us in the game while we scratched back the runs.”
Additional kudos to Casey Dykstra, Jake Harrell, Nick Proctor, Elijah Trest, and Jack Cunningham, who threw a combined five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and a walk. Roman Angelo had started and put in four innings, his longest stint of the season, but left trailing 3-2.
No problem. Oakley, who also drove in the ’Sters second run, and the bullpen had his back.
The Foresters surprise 2020 season wraps up the home portion of events on Friday with BMW Santa Barbara Hugs for Cubs Day, with special guest Hugs Kid Henry Miller. Listen to the game on KCSB.org/sports or watch the Livestream.