The Santa Barbara Foresters defeated the San Luis Obispo Blues for the 3rd straight game and the 4th consecutive time this season, winning 6-3 on a hazy evening in Santa Barbara. The win is the Sters’ 6th straight and their 10th in their last 11 games, as Ryan O’Hearn continued to dominate the Blues pitching staff.
Starting his third game of the season was University of Texas prospect Parker French, who went 5 innings and gave up 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 5 to get his first win of the season. The last time he faced the Blues French pitched 4 scoreless innings, beginning what eventually would be a 2-0 shutout for the Sters at San Luis Obispo on June 26th.
French faced some adversity in the top of the second inning, as Aaron Attaway and Cody Jones led off the inning with back to back singles before being sacrificed over on a bunt by Bryan Case. A RBI groundout by Andrew Lee put SLO on the board first, but French managed to strike out Sean Ullrich looking to limit the damage to 1 run.
The Foresters threatened to tie the game in the bottom half of the second when Ben Johnson walked and stole second with one out. Their effort was unfortunately thwarted by the Blues’ starter Kyle Johnson, who got Louie Lechich to groundout back to the mound and Hunter Kopycinski to ground into a fielder’s choice following a walk to his Rice teammate, Shane Hoelscher.
Johnson, a right-handed pitcher and outfielder from Purdue University, had a 4.37 ERA and 1-1 record going into the contest. He finished the evening with the loss on 79 pitches in 4.1 innings, giving up 4 earned runs and 4 hits while striking out 1 and walking 5.
After French struck out the side in the top of the fourth, Ryan O’Hearn led off the bottom half with a solo home run to right to put the Sters on the board and tie the game at 1. It was his 3rd homer in as many games, all against the Blues. O’Hearn now has 4 round-trippers on the season, matching Lechich for the team lead.
The Sters struck again in the fifth to take the lead, leading off the inning with a couple walks and a single by Keaton Jones, Colt Atwood and Garrett Mattlage respectively to load the bases. After Joey Epperson hit into a fielder’s choice at home plate, O’Hearn and Johnson both walked to drive in runs. Lechich finished the scoring with a RBI fielder’s choice, giving Santa Barbara three runs in the frame.
After SLO scored 1 in the sixth, the Foresters responded again as O’Hearn hit a two out single to left to give Santa Barbara a 5-2 lead. The lefty from Sam Houston State finished the game 2-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs.
Things heated up in the top of the eighth when Patrick Weigel walked Blake Allemand and hit Michael Pritchard with a pitch. Pritchard threw a fit as he walked to first, even staring down the Sters reliever despite the fact it was just a 3 run game at the time and Weigel had struggled to find the strike zone at all to the previous batter. Pritchard’s antics continued during the next at-bat, as he slid cleats up into Keaton Jones on a foul ball.
Attaway walked and a fielder’s choice by Jones gave the Blues their first and only run of the inning. After Jones stole second, Weigel managed to strike out Bryan Case and get Jimmy Allen to ground out to short with runners on second and third to maintain the Foresters’ lead.
The Foresters scored 1 run in the eighth before Hunter Lemke came in to close out the Blues in the ninth. Lemke pitched a 1-2-3 while striking out 2 to get his 4th save of the season.
Along with O’Hearn, the Sters offense was paced by Garrett Mattlage, who went 3-5 with a double and 3 runs.
The victory puts the Foresters at 25-9-1 overall and 14-9 in California Collegiate League play. The Sters now are a half game ahead of the Blues in the CCL and are tied with the Conejo Oaks for first in the CCL North.