Photo of Michael Neustifter by Vic Neumann
By Patrick Hunter
For the third time this season, the SoCal Catch took an early lead over the Santa Barbara Foresters. And for the third time this season, the ’Sters came back from a deficit to beat their SoCal opponents, this time exploding late in the ball game to finish off the Catch to a score of 9-3 behind the largest crowd of the season on SB Independent Day.
After striking out the first six batters he faced, starting pitcher Michael Hobbs allowed a run in the third to allow an early Catch lead. It did not last long, as SB left fielder John Jensen knocked in Logan Allen on an infield out to tie up the game.
Hobbs did not allow another run in his outing, and closed on a good note, finishing with nine strikeouts, including six swinging. As is the norm, pitching was a strength for the ’Sters on the day. While the offense took time to get rolling, Santa Barbara pitching racked up a whopping 17 strikeouts (and allowing only one walk) throughout the game, holding a hot SoCal offense to just three runs.
The score held at 1-1 until a wild sequence in the bottom of the sixth broke the tie. It all started with a seemingly harmless walk of first baseman Utah Jones. (Spoiler alert: The ’Sters would go on to cash in a run.) In the next at-bat, Jones stole second, but the SoCal catcher’s throw sailed the ball past the second baseman. Jones reached third safely with no outs. Moments later, a wild pitch allowed Jones to cruise into home plate, giving the ’Sters their first lead of the game, 2-1.
After gaining the lead, Santa Barbara went for some insurance. With two on after back-to-back walks, Luke Ritter knocked a single into left field. Jensen scored easily from second, but on the throw to home, Ritter himself attempted to advance to second, sparking a wild pickle in the process. After appearing to have lead runner Chase Illig out at second with Ritter on the same base, Ritter bolted back to first, causing a confusion in the infield that opened Illig’s clear path to return to third. Ritter was tagged out, but in the process, a run run scored and Illig wound up in scoring position.
Following another walk, third baseman Michael Neustifter then brought in a pair of runs with a hard line drive to center. Cash drove in Neustifter with a single to right to make it 6-1. Shortly after, with two outs and two runners on, center fielder Logan Allen delivered the big hit of the day, a soaring home run to left. The Catch left fielder watched it sail over his head, as he knew it was gone from the moment the ball left the bat.
Holding a 9-1 lead entering the eighth, the ’Sters had the game in hand, and while relief pitching would allow two more runs to score, Santa Barbara clinched its 18th win of the season, with a score of 9-3.
Catch your favorite Santa Barbara baseball team in action next on Friday, June 29 at 6pm at Pershing Park!