By Jim Buckley (in SB): Here we go again. For the 11th time since 2003, the Santa Barbara Foresters will play for the NBC World Series Championship. A single by Dylan Campbell drove in what was basically a walk-off win, as Josh Stinson scored to make it 8-0 and the game ended via the mercy rule. Saturday at 4 pm (SB time), the ’Sters will play the winner of Cheney-Lonestar, a game to be played Friday evening, with a chance to defend their 2020 NBC title; this will be only the second time that the Foresters have a shot at the back-to-back—they were successful on it in 2011 and 2012.
Thursday’s win was a complete victory for the Foresters, combining timely hitting, great pitching, flawless defense . . . and well, yes, a bit of luck.
While the offense put up the necessary runs, the star of the game was starting pitcher Justin Eckhardt. After a strong five-inning, one-hit performance in the opener last Thursday, the righty was once again masterful a week later. Though he allowed a man to second in each of the first three innings, he stranded all three runners. He then needed only five pitches in the fourth and ten in the sixth. Eckhardt pitched seven innings, striking out five, allowing only three hits, and walking none. He ends his NBC stint with 12 scoreless innings, with 13 strikeouts, four hits and no walks. Wow.
The Foresters defense shone, too. Ryan Wrobleski made two excellent catches in right field, battling a fierce sun. Campbell and Seth Stevenson charged down slow rollers, while Nate Rombach dug out a low throw for a key first out in the seventh, a play that was followed by Josh Stinson moments later to end the inning with a long run to make the catch. Earlier, Eckhardt had helped himself on a nubber just in front of the plate on which he pounced. Josh
As for the offense, the Foresters got going early. After Stevenson had a probable double stolen by a solid play by his college teammate Austin Jackson playing left field, Campbell earned a trip to first on an error by the Lonestar shortstop (his first of three on the night). Wrobleski stroked a perfect hit-and-run double to right center and Campbell came all the way around to score. That would prove to be a theme, as the Lonestar defense continued to hand the Foresters new lives.
Santa Barbara started the third inning with four straight singles, only two of which left the infield. But four errors amid those singles (plus three stolen bases) allowed all four runners to come around to score to make it 5-0 Foresters. One of the errors came when the catcher bounced a throw to second trying to nab a running Tanner O’Tremba off of batter Jared Thomas’s helmet!
Santa Barbara added another in the fifth when Kendall Pettis lofted a one-out sacrifice fly to center. Run number 7 came in the sixth on a Jared Thomas single to score Wrobleski, who had walked and stolen. That put them one run short of the eight-run after seven innings mercy rule.
In the bottom of the seventh, Stinson singled with one out and stole second. With two outs, Campbell laced a long single to left center. Stinson scored easily and the ball game was over.
The championship game is Saturday, August 14. The opponent would have to beat the Foresters twice to win the title. And Santa Barbara enters that game on a 20-game winning streak. We’ll post the opponent and game time as soon as they are known.