The Santa Barbara Foresters erased a five run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning after Hugs for Cubs kid Sam Helfand took over as the PA announcer, eventually defeating the Conejo Oaks 8-7. The win gives the Sters a one game lead over the San Luis Obispo Blues going in to a crucial three game series in SLO this week. Sam’s contribution to the victory will forever be remembered in Foresters lore.
Before the originally scheduled game could be played the Foresters and the Oaks finished their dogfight from Friday evening, which had been called due to darkness after nine innings in Thousand Oaks. Playing as the road team, Santa Barbara pushed across a run in the top of the tenth due to a walk by Garrett Mattlage and a couple sacrifice hits. The late inning drama was quickly ended as Tejay Antone struck out the side in order, giving the Foresters the crucial 6-5 win.
The action continued a little over an hour later and the Sters did not take long to score again, although this time they received some help from their opponents to do so. Colt Atwood laid down a bunt single to lead off and advanced to third on a couple of groundouts before scoring on an error by second baseman Nicho Dellavalle.
Conejo threatened valiantly in the top of the second, loading the bases before Foresters’ starting pitcher Andrew Godial was able to record an out. Their effort was luckily thwarted by the southpaw Godial, who sprung off the mound on a grounder by Taylor Hansen to turn a 1-2-3 double play and then induced a ground out to short to keep the Oaks off the scoreboard.
The Foresters struck again in the third, putting together a two out rally to score another run. Joey Epperson started it off with a single and a hit by pitch for Ryan O’Hearn put two runners on, allowing Ben Johnson to hit a slow chopper up the middle to make the score 2-0.
The Sters squandered their modest lead in the fourth as Conejo scored four runs, highlighted by Tommy Pluschkell’s three run homer over the left field wall. Godial finished his outing throwing 88 pitches in five innings while allowing four earned runs on five hits and four walks. The Sam Houston State product had not given up an earned run in his last two starts coming into today.
Conejo tacked on three runs in the seventh to seemingly put the Sters away, but Santa Barbara’s boys of summer courageously fought back from almost certain defeat to score six runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead 8-7.
Starting the Foresters best comeback of the season was Mattlage with a single. Epperson was hit by a pitch and with one out the walking party began. Johnson, Louie Lechich, Shane Hoelscher, and Jerry McClanahan walked in four consecutive at-bats to make the score 7-5. Keaton Jones then provided the largest and final blow of the inning, doubling sharply down the left field line to clear the bases and give the Sters their first lead since the top of the fourth. Jones finished the game 2-4 with three RBIs.
Patrick Weigel, put in the game to cut off the Oaks’ rally the previous inning, set down the Conejo batters in order in the top of the eighth to preserve the slim lead. Weigel earned his third win of the season, striking out two in one and a third innings of work.
Making up for his first shaky appearance of the season on Friday evening, Hunter Lemke shut down the Oaks comeback attempt to get his seventh save, finishing the game by picking off Cody Ramer at first base for the final out.
The Foresters are now 31-12-1 overall and 20-12 in California Collegiate League action. The Sters begin their final series with the Blues this Tuesday at 6 pm in San Luis Obispo.