Photo by Vic Neumann
By Will Bashur
It took five innings to shake off the rust from the All-Star break, but the Foresters mounted a ferocious comeback to win a back-and-forth matchup in San Luis Obispo, 6-5. Santa Barbara displayed their unwavering resilience as they scored five runs in the last four innings to tie the game, then pushed across another run in the tenth to come out on top.
But it was the Blues who were dominant to begin the rivalry game.
Foresters starter Bryce Elder struggled in the opening frame, giving up three hits and a walk. Blues center fielder Jay Charleston led off with a swinging bunt single, and Blayne Jones followed with a walk. Then Brian Klein smoked an RBI single to give the Blues a 1-0 lead with nobody out. The slugging first baseman Luc Lipcius knocked the second consecutive RBI single, plating Jones and giving San Luis Obispo a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, a wild pitch from Elder allowed Klein to score, and the Blues gained an early 3-0 cushion. Elder quickly gathered himself to strike out the next two hitters, but the damage had already been done.
Unlike the Blues, the Foresters couldn’t muster up any offense in the early going. San Luis Obispo starter Gabe Constantine shut down Santa Barbara’s bats, tossing five shutout innings to start the game. Constantine didn’t overpower the ’Sters with a mid-nineties fastball. Instead, he beautifully painted the corners, and kept the Foresters off balance with a potent curveball-changeup combo.
After his rocky first inning, Elder saved his outing with five innings of superb pitching. The Texas Longhorn gave up only one more run, and ended up striking out 10 Blues. He pumped in strike after strike, and didn’t allow another walk. Elder’s swift recovery kept Santa Barbara in the game and set the stage for an epic comeback.
In the sixth, the Foresters were finally able to break through Constantine.
The rally began oddly, as Chase Illig started the inning by reaching on catcher’s interference. After Conor Davis popped out, Utah Jones floated a single into right field, allowing Illig to advance to third. Cameron Warren then stepped into the batter’s box, and delivered with his biggest hit of the summer. The Texas Tech first baseman smashed a double into the right-center field gap, driving in Illig and Jones and cutting the Blues’ lead in half to 4-2. Following a Tyler Hardman strikeout, Ryan Cash hit a clutch two-out RBI single to drive in a hustling Warren. With Cash’s base knock, the ’Sters were down one, 4-3.
The Foresters continued to scrape and crawl back into the game in the seventh, when Davis hit a two-out opposite field line drive to tie the game at 4-4. In the eighth, Logan Allen drove in Cash with a sac fly to right, and Santa Barbara took the first lead of the game, 5-4.
The Blues weren’t too keen on potentially losing another game to the Foresters on their home turf.
In the bottom of the eighth, San Luis Obispo took advantage of a wild Nico O’Donnell. O’Donnell began his relief appearance by walking Klein, who then advanced to third after a ground out and a wild pitch. Klein soon scored after Turner Gauntt couldn’t get in front of a bouncing curveball, tying the game at 5-5 on the wild pitch.
In the last half of the ninth, the game got even crazier.
With two outs and the winning run on third, Foresters reliever Bailey Reid threw a fastball to Charleston. Charleston hit a high bouncing chopper back to Reid, who scrambled to get the ball to first. His throw nearly pulled the first baseman Warren off the bag, who barely keep kept his heel on to retire the side. However, the raucous Blues crowd erupted in disbelief, as they believed Warren had clearly stepped off the bag. The controversial call stood, and came back to haunt the home team.
Warren silenced the angry crowd in the tenth when he hit a one-out triple into the right field corner. After John Jensen struck out, Cash came in the clutch yet again, driving in Warren with a two-out double to give the ’Sters a 6-5 lead. With Cash’s hit, the 1,124 faithful Blues fans were left in utter shock.
Chase Wallace entered the game in the last of the tenth to close the game. After making things interesting by allowing the tying run to reach on a throwing error, Wallace quickly regained his composure to end the Blues’ hopes of a comeback.
The Foresters will head back home to take on the OC Surf on Friday at 6 PM. Be sure to tune into 1290 AM for full coverage of the game, beginning at 5:50.