By Will Bashur
If you like offense, you loved this game. In a wildly entertaining contest that lasted more than three-and-a-half hours, the Foresters outlasted the Dodge City A’s 20-12. Santa Barbara moves to 2-0 in Wichita, and hops into the driver’s seat in Pool A ahead of Tuesday’s clash with the Seattle Studs (set for 5 pm Santa Barbara time August 7). The win also essentially guaranteed the Foresters a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals, though final determination of seeding will come Tuesday night.
The Foresters and the A’s stuffed the stat sheet fuller than a Thanksgiving turkey, combining for an all-time NBC-record 32 runs and 37 hits. They’ve been playing this tournament since 1935 and no other game had lit up the scoreboard like this one. It was a back-and-forth punching match until Santa Barbara broke it open with a six-run seventh, prompting the game to end in yet another mercy-rule conclusion after seven innings. Along the way, the Foresters had their second consecutive 14-batter, 10-run fourth inning, bringing their two-game totals to 38 runs in only 13 innings of play.
The A’s actually got the party started in the first. Dodge City had Foresters starter Jackson Wolf’s number from the get-go, scoring two runs on two hits in the first. Blaine Ray provided the key hit in the first, as he shot a 2-RBI single back up the middle to get the A’s on the board.
After the Foresters tied it in the second inning at 2-2, second, Wolf retired Isaiah Haddad and Kyle Cullen on six pitches to pick up a quick two outs. But taking a page from the Foresters’ playbook (“Two-out hits win championships”), Dodge City racked up five straight two-out hits, including a ground-rule double and suddenly led 6-2. That knocked Wolf out of the game and Connor Woods came on to close things down.
In the third, the Foresters got one back when Cameron Warren came within inches of a three-run homer, but instead drove in Logan Allen, who had singled.
Down 6-3, the Foresters pounded the ball in the fourth, sending 14 men to the plate and scoring 10 runs. Catcher Slade Heggen’s two-run homer got the scoring started. After a new pitcher and singles by Elijah Alexander and Allen, Brandon Lewis lofted a fly to center. The ball trampolined over the centerfielder’s head and everybody scored, including Lewis on a surprise inside-the-park homer. That put the ’Sters on top to stay, 8–6. Santa Barbara was not done, however. Utah Jones smacked a two-run single driving in Michael Neustifter and Ryan Cash. Heggen then picked up his second hit of the inning with a loud single, scoring Jones to increase the lead to 11-6. Alexander got his second hit of the inning, too, a triple to the right field corner to drive in Heggen. Allen then stepped in to the box for his own second at bat in the inning, and delivered with an RBI single to to push the lead to 13-6.
In a game that resembled a heavyweight fight, Dodge City punched back in the bottom of the fourth. Zak Felix started the rally with a triple, and Adam Hollar followed with a double. Tanner Schuetz then smashed another triple, and in the blink of an eye Dodge City had slashed the lead to 13-8. Schuetz’s triple prompted Coach Bill Pintard to remove Conner Woods in favor of reliever James Notary. Notary retired the next two batters on a swinging strikeout and routine grounder, temporarily halting a Dodge City comeback.
In the fifth, Cash added more runs to the scoreboard with a two-RBI double, giving the ’Sters a 14-8 lead. Back came Dodge city again, racking up four runs in the fifth to bring a seemingly in-hand game into doubt once again.
Up 14-12, but ready with more, the Foresters scored six runs in the seventh. Ryan Cash drove in two more runs before Haggen hit his second homer of the game, a two-run shot to left. Brandon Lewis drove in one with a double. Luke Ritter, heretofore the lone Foresters player without a hit, came through with a single that scored Lewis. That put the Foresters up by eight runs after seven innings. Elliott Anderson came on for the Foresters to put up a 1-2-3 seventh that ended the game thanks to NBC World Series rules (up by 10 after 5 or up by 7 after 7 and that’s the ballgame).
The Foresters play on Tuesday at a time TBD; check back on our web site, Facebook page, etc. We’ll post the time as soon as it’s known.