By Harry Croton
Photo by Vic Neumann (mrvicspics.com)
In the early part of the season, new Foresters show up on a fairly regular basis as their teams wrap up college seasons and playoff action. On Tuesday, new shortstop Brandon Zaragoza showed up from Oklahoma . . . and thank goodness. He cracked two hits, had two RBI, and scored a run while playing flawless defense. He was a key part of the Foresters’ 6-5 win at Conejo. The W gave the ’Sters an unprecendented win streak to start the season. Santa Barbara did make this one interesting, turning a 6-2 ninth-inning lead into a nailbiter, but they closed it out for win No. 10.
So was Zaragoza nervous about rolling into his new team and making a mark?
“Not at all. I was just excited to finally get started this summer—I was fired up,” he said. This dude is a ’Ster from day one. “I wasn’t thinking much because I hadn’t seen live pitching in weeks. I just wanted to put good swings on pitches that were in the zone.”
The trip to Sparky Anderson Field marked the start of a three-game road trip for Santa Barbara, and the Foresters opened up the scoring in the second inning against the Oaks. Third baseman Michael Neustifter reached third base with one out, and Zaragoza notched his first RBI as a ’Ster, driving Neufstifter home on a ground ball.
Conner Woods, who was one of six Forester pitchers to combine on a no-hitter last Saturday, made his first start of the year Tuesday, tossing three scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts. Following a two-run fourth and a three-run fifth by the ’Sters, reliever James Notary threw three innings of one-run ball to hold the score at 6-1 after six. Neustifter scored again, while Logan Allen and Utah Jones joined Zaragoza in the multi-hit club.
Lefty reliever Brad Demco pitched the seventh and eighth, allowing one run. Manager Bill Pintard sent University of Tennessee southpaw Garrett Crochet to finish things off in the ninth, though the end was not without drama. Oaks DH Michael Tillman roped a two-run single followed by another single that brought Conejo to within one run. Crochet then dealt a series of blistering fastballs to strike out the final batter looking to end the ballgame.
The nailbiting victory advanced the Foresters to 7-0 in CCL play. Next stop on their road trip will be La Mirada to begin a two-game road series against CCL rival SoCal Catch. Tune in Wednesday at 5:00pm on AM 1290 to catch all the action.