By Jim Buckley
After a relatively easy first game at the NBC World Series, the Foresters faced a tough battle on Sunday, and needed a little help to walk off with a 5-4 victory over the Great Bend Bat Cats in ten innings. After a Jalin Flores lead-off double, the Great Bend pitcher threw away a nubber off the bat of Max Belyeu to let Flores score the winning run. The victory sets up a key game that can send the Foresters directly to the quarterfinals. Santa Barbara will play Sandlot Tulsa on Tuesday August 8 at 1 pm Santa Barbara time.
Before the walk-off drama on Sunday, the game with the Bat Cats had featured several back-and-forth battles, with both teams coming back repeatedly to create tie scores.
Before the excitement of the tenth, the Foresters went through a controversial top of the ninth. First, manager Bill Pintard was tossed before the inning started for reasons that remain murky. Then the same first-base umpire who tossed Pintard made what appeared to YouTubeTV viewers to be a bad call on a play at first, calling a runner safe after dexterous Foresters first baseman Rocco Garza-Gongora had apparently recorded an out. But Sean Youngerman blew away the next hitter and then Will Rogers cut down the runner trying to steal, setting up the dramatic finish.
The game had begun with solid outings by both starters. The Bat Cats’ Kyle Winkler pitched well and made the Foresters work for their hits and runs. He scattered six hits in his six innings and got a pair of inning-ending double plays. Santa Barbara starter Carson Turnquist piled up seven strikeouts, but walked three and gave up four singles in his four innings of work.
The Foresters had struck first in the second inning, as Max Belyeu drove in Greg Pace, who had walked. The Bat Cats responded in the fourth with two runs on a pair of singles, aided by a passed ball and a walk. In the sixth, Santa Barbara responded quickly, scoring in the same way as in the first, with Belyeu driving in Pace to tie the score 2-2.
Great Bend then took a page out of the Foresters playbook in the sixth, as Tyler Cowan drove a two-out, two-run single into left-centerfield in the sixth to put Great Bend up 4-2.
Back came the Foresters in the seventh, when they took full advantage of mistakes by the Bat Cats to tie the game 4-4. After a pair of walks to LF Ryan Black and new Foresters second baseman Kamau Neighbors, a double steal was successful. The throw to third went into left field and Black scored. A base hit by Flores then brought in Neighbors to tie the score 4-4, and an another error let Flores reach second. However, a mistake by the Foresters prevented the go-ahead run from scoring. With runners at second and third, Max Belyeu lined out to center and Pace appeared to score, but was called out for leaving early.
A strong relief appearance by Youngerman helped set up the tenth, as the Foresters took advantage of the Bat Cats’ fifth error of the night. The Foresters have now win 17 consecutive games at the NBC World Series, dating back to 2020. Listen Tuesday at 1 pm on AM 1290/FM 96.9 or online, plus watch the simulcast on the NBC World Series YouTube channel.