By Jim Buckley
Photo by Vic Neumann
Showing the kind of relentless energy that has characterized their 2018 season, the Foresters rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off comeback win over the San Diego Stars, 7-6. Ryan Cash (pictured earlier in the season) drove in the game-winner with one out to cue the celebration. The victory in the must-win game sends the Foresters to the NBC World Series national semifinals on Friday vs. the San Antonio Angels. First pitch will be 5 pm, Santa Barbara time.
The ninth-inning rally capped off an exciting back-and-forth game that saw both teams come from behind to create gripping tie scores. Santa Barbara took a 2-0 lead after three innings on a Luke Ritter sac fly and a Brandon Lewis home run. Foresters starting pitcher Bryce Elder was outstanding, battling through six-plus innings and only getting touched up near the end of his stint.
Elder’s downfall included a four-run fifth for the Stars as they took the lead back from Santa Barbara. San Diego’s Johnny Valdez hit a two-run homer and Cabot Van Til followed a few batters later with a two-run triple. An old Foresters saying is that “two out hits win championships.” San Diego was trying to prove that to be the case, as Van Til’s hit came after two were gone.
The Foresters came right back to score two in their half of the fifth. Elijah Alexander reached on a walk, made it to third on an error, and scored on a wild pitch. Patrick Mathis then hit a two-out double to drive in Brendan Lewis, who had reached on a fielder’s choice. Lewis’s run tied the score at 4-4.
San Diego then struck the next big blow in this heavyweight fight. Pinch-hitter Ben Bruff smacked a two-run homer in the eighth to give the Stars the lead once more.
But “never say die” has been a motto for Santa Barbara all season. Down by two entering the bottom of the ninth, the Foresters strung together two hits, two sac flies, a pair of walks, and a hit batter. The second hit, by Cash, drove in Lewis with the game-winner.
In the inning, the ’Sters took advantage of a tough break for the Stars, as relief pitcher Michael Horton had to leave the game with an injury after giving up a leadoff hit to Alexander. With his only pitch of the game, reliever Dalton Manley hit Logan Allen. A walk to Lewis loaded the bases for Ritter, who knocked in a run with his second sac fly of the game. Mathis was hit by a pitch, too, loading them up for Michael Neustifter, who walked for the second time in the game (and fifth time in two games) to drive in Allen with the tying run.
With the sacks still full, Cash slammed the first pitch he saw into right, bringing in Lewis with the game-winner (and Lewis’s fourth run of the game).
In a game they had to win, the Foresters did, adding in late-inning drama to the mix. The team will play at 5pm or 7:30 pm Santa Barbara time on Friday, August 10 in the semifinal. The game will mark the 16th time in 17 seasons that the Foresters have finished among the top four teams in the nation. Game time will be posted on our schedule page and on Facebook as well as local media as soon as it is know. Tune in to AM 1290 to catch all the action.