by Nate Loop
The Foresters finally returned home, after a six-game road trip, all of which were CCL league games. They went 3-3, getting swept by the Blues and paying the favor forward to the Brewers, and relinquished first place in the league to the aforementioned Blues from San Luis Obispo. Still, the Foresters pressed on, turning their attention to non-league opponents, the Bakersfield Braves, whom they managed to squeak by with a hard-fought 3-2 victory.
Manager Bill Pintard used the non-league game as a chance to rest some of his key players, and backups like Zach Fish, Nick Parent, Kaeo Aliviado, and Nick Melino got to start the game.
It may have been the backups day to play, but it was still some everyday players who did the drew first blood for the Foresters.
Facing righthander Brad Lindsley in the bottom of the first inning, Austin Davidson came up and wasted no time getting a single. Ryan O’Hearn, who leads the team in RBIs with 24, added to that tally by hitting a double that just missed clearing the wall, and Davidson came around to score for the early 1-0
The Foresters started the game with Ian McCarthy on the mound. After a sensational start to the season that saw him jump out to a 4-0 record and rack up a 25 scoreless inning streak along the way, McCarthy ran into trouble in his last two starts, going 0-2 and giving up 11 runs (6 earned) in just 6 1/3 innings.
But the crafty righthander from USC looked sharp again early on, and although not known for being a power pitcher, racked up a season-high seven strikeouts.
McCarthy wasn’t perfect, and he did allow the Braves to score a run in the third inning.
McCarthy walked Steven Gee, and then committed a pickoff error that allowed Gee to take second. Braves outfielder Forest Smith capitalized on the mistake, lacing a single that allowed Gee plenty of time to cross home plate.
However, the Braves advantage wouldn’t survive past the bottom of that third inning.Zach Fish, getting the nod in right field, made sure everyone in the stands knew he was in the game, as he crushed a pitched from Lindsley over the fence in left field for a solo home run to give the Foresters back the lead at 2-1.
In the fourth inning, McCarthy was the victim of some rotten luck. The Braves had Chris Neal on second and Kevin Younger at the plate with one out. McCarthy appeared to have gotten the pitch he needed, as his cutter was tapped weakly towards the gap between 1st and 2nd. However, Davidson and O’Hearn undid their earlier contributions by colliding trying to field the ball, and Neal came around to score to tie the game at two runs a piece.
The Foresters took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a passed ball from Braves catcher Josh Hickle, with O’Hearn scoring the go ahead run.
Neither team was able to muster much offense after that, but regular players Arby Fields and Richard Sanguinetti did make cameos in the 8th inning, as a pinch runner and hitter, respectively, as Manager Bill Pintard looked to tack on an insurance run. This never came to fruition, and it was time for Hunter Lemke to take his usual spot on the mound in the 9th inning.
Lemke once again made a tough job look very easy, as he got Neal to line out to right field, Matt Packer to go down swining, and then Kevin Younger to strike out looking for the final out.
Jose Cardona pitched two masterful innings in direct relief of McCarthy, who was pulled after the fourth inning, and earned his second win of the season.
Hunter Lemke’s save took his tally to 9 on the year, and his ERA to an absurdly low 1.27 ( but still twice as high as the team’s ERA king, Brandon Shoemake).
The Foresters play the Braves again tomorrow evening at 5:10p.m.