by Nate Loop
If the Foresters are going to have a few laughers, burying opponents with a twin combination of good hitting and lights-out pitching, it stands to reason that the joke will eventually be on them. On America’s birthday, this edition of the national pastime (brought to the fans by Business First Bank) saw the end of the Foresters eight game winning streak, as old Uncle Sam must have bet on the Conejo Oaks, who came through with a 8-0 drubbing of the ‘Sters.
The game was an especially significant one, as the matchup was not just a California Coast League game, but also the opening game of the Santa Barbara Tournament. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic berth in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
The Foresters started Ian McCarthy on the mound, who brought along his sterling credentials (4-0, 0.33 ERA). Fans could have expected another tutorial in control pitching, but McCarthy proved to be merely mortal today, as the Oaks got to him early and often.
The Oaks put up four runs in the first inning. McCarthy gave up an RBI single to Eric Fisher with just one out, and needed some assistance from his defense as that was the third batter he had allowed to reach base by that point.
However, a crucial error by Richy Pedroza, failing to corral a modest grounder, loaded the bases and left the door open for the Oaks to force more runs through. McCarthy induced a groundout from Kalei Hanawahine, but Taylor Hansen scored from third on the play. Nick Catalano then hit a two RBI single for a 4-0 Oaks lead after just an inning.
McCarthy gave up two RBI singles in the second inning before bowing out, leaving the game with a 6-0 deficit.
While the Oaks were busy putting on a fireworks display, the ‘Sters couldn’t find a spark to light the fuse, as they were getting blanketed by Oaks starter Landon Hunt. the southpaw was not overpowering, but his pitching was more than enough to protect the comfortable advantage his team handed him.
Jose Cardona got the early wake up call from the confines of the bullpen, and pitched 3 and 1/3 innings of solid relief, just giving up one earned run on three hits. That run came courtesy of another RBI single by Fisher in the fourth inning.
Hunt made routine work of the Foresters, who were visibly frustrated during the game. Hunt allowed just three hits all game long, and never even gave up a walk. The Foresters got a man on third base with two outs in the seventh inning, but that would be the closest they would ever come to scoring.
Dae Yang Kim put in a shutout inning of relief in the sixth, followed by two impressive innings from southpaw Albert Minnis.
Hunter Lemke, normally the ‘Sters closer, came in to pitch the ninth in unfamiliar territory, just trying to get the final outs rather than protecting a slim lead. It turned out that Lemke was uncharacteristically shaky, as he got tagged for an earned run in his inning of work to give the Oaks their 8-0 advantage.
As the game labored on and the sun made its way across the sky, behind the blanket of gray clouds, the diffuse twilight signaled the doom and gloom of the Forester’s disappointing game before the bright yellow lights of the scoreboard could spell out the final verdict itself.
The Foresters, batting in the bottom of the ninth for the first time in a long time, could not deny Hunt the complete game shutout, as they went down 1-2-3 for the final outs of the game, sealing the Forester’s fate.
McCarthy lasted just 1 and 2/3 innings in the loss, easily his shortest outing of the season, and gave up 6 runs (3 unearned) on seven hits.
The loss was McCarthy’s first of the season, and was the Forester’s first home loss since a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the San Luis Obispo Blues way back on June 21st.
The ‘Sters chances are slim if they want to win the tournament, as the Oaks will have to lose twice, and the ‘Sters win out in order to avoid a head to head tiebreaker with the Oaks.