By Sasha Steinberg
In the final California Collegiate League (CCL) game of the year, the Santa Barbara Foresters edged out the Conejo Oaks 2-1 at George Sparky Anderson Field. ‘Sters starting pitcher Brandon Quintero (3-0) allowed zero runs and six hits with five strikeouts in five full innings, earning himself the win.
The ‘Sters will now take their talents to Kansas where they look to win their third NBC World Series championship in four years.
Conejo’s Trevor Belicek pitched flawlessly for the Oaks carrying a no hitter through four and two third innings before giving up a single up the middle to Cody Walker in the top of the fifth.
Belicek struck out five batters and gave up zero runs in five innings. However, once Conejo tapped in to their bullpen, the ‘Sters were primed to finally put some runs on the board. Santa Barbara found their stride once Josh Grajeda came in to pitch for Belicek in the sixth, as they scored two runs in the inning leading them to the victory.
Colt Atwood led off with a bloop double down the left field line. Ford Stainback was able to move him over to third on a groundout to second with Jaylin Davis coming up to the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Davis hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field to give the ‘Sters a 1-0 lead.
Next up was Jeremy Montalbano, who laced a groundball past the first basemen for a double. Granger Studdard then worked the count to 3-2 before smashing a ball to deep right center field, good for a triple, scoring Montalbano from second and put Santa Barbara up 2-0.
Kyle Kubat came into relieve Quintero in the bottom of the sixth and worked himself into a jam. The first batter he faced, Cody Lenahan, belted a ball back to the mound, which bounced off Kubat’s leg allowing Lenahan to reach first safely. The next batter, Tommy Pluschkel, hit a hard line drive to right field putting men on first and second.
Connor Garelick then hit a groundball single to load the bases for the Oaks with Ramsey Abushala coming up to the plate. Abushala hit another groundball between the first and second basemen to score Pluschkel and cut the ‘Sters lead in half.
Kubat got Santa Barbara out of the bases loaded jam by forcing Alex Bishop to ground into a double play thanks to Dave Graybill at first, who scooped a ball in the dirt.
The ‘Sters had a chance to add to their lead in the top of the seventh when Graybill led off the inning by crushing a fly ball into right center field, good for a double. Southall then laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line, beating the throw to first while advancing Graybill to third.
With two outs in the same inning, on the eighth pitch of the at bat, Ford Stainback grounded out to second base leaving two men on to end the inning. Yet, the one run lead proved just enough as the ‘Sters went on to win the game finishing 7-1 against the Oaks in league.
Troy Cruz came into pitch for the ‘Sters in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and men on first and second. Cruz was able to get Santa Barbara out of the jam by forcing Oaks’ Tommy Pluschkel to ground into a fielder’s choice.
The Oaks threatened to score in the bottom of the eighth, however Cruz was able to strike out Manny Jefferson with men on first and second to end the inning.
With the sun setting at Sparky Anderson Field in the bottom of the ninth, Cruz pitched a 1-2-3 inning, striking out the final two batters to earn the save.
With the win, the ‘Sters finish CCL play with a league record of 31-8-1, and overall record of 36-10-1.
The Oaks outhit the ‘Sters 13-8, but solid defense at key times allowed Santa Barbara to prevail.
The EP Beverage Player of the Game is Granger Studdard for his monstrous triple in the sixth, which put the ‘Sters up 2-0 eventually leading to the win.
The win allowed Santa Barbara to squeak past the Los Angeles Brewers by mere percentage points crowning them regular season champions.
Santa Barbara will now travel to Wichita, Kansas to face off in the NBC Baseball World Series. Follow the ‘Sters and their run to a championship on KZSB-AM1290 with Jerry Fall.
Granger Studdard: Finished 1st in the league in RBI’s (35), finished in a tie for 1st in the league in doubles (12), finished in a tie for 2nd in the league in HR’s (5)
Jon Duplantier: Finished 1st in the league in K’s (52)
Ford Stainback: Finished 2nd in the league in AVG (.396)
Sam Odom : Finished 2nd in the league in ERA (0.75)
Colt Atwood: Finished 3rd in the league in SB (17)
Jon Woodcock and Andrew Lantrip: Finished in a tie for 3rd in the league in Wins (4)
Matt Withrow and Troy Cruz: Finished in a tie for 4th in the league in Saves (3)
Jaylin Davis and Dillon Dobson: Finished in a tie for 4th in the league in HR’s (4)
Dave Graybill: Finished 4th in the league in SB (12)