The weather was hot but Foresters’ pitching was hotter. Santa Barbara starter Kyle Johnston and two relievers allowed only three hits, leading the way to a 3-1 victory over the Neptune Beach Pearl in game one of the California Collegiate League playoffs. They continue their quest for the CCL title in the second game on Saturday, to be played at the MLB Urban Academy field starting at 2 pm. versus TKTKTKT.
For the most part, the game was a pitchers’ duel between Johnston and Pearl starter Jason Seever, with the Foresters being the team to break through and put runs on the board. The Pearl made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth, scoring their only run of the game and bringing the potential winning run to the plate before Foresters closer Blake Smith could shut the door for good.
The Foresters got the scoring started in the second, using their speed to take the lead. Lex Kaplan rolled a one-out single into right and then stole second and third while Dylan Paul worked the count. Paul then did his job, grounding out to second base while Kaplan completed his turn around the bases for the first run.
The game remained tight, however, as Seever was also effective striking out seven Foresters and scattering six hits.
In the sixth, the Foresters were able to string a few of those hits together effectively, adding what proved to be key insurance runs. Second baseman Travis Moniot hit the second pitch he saw down the leftfield line for a stand-up double. Centerfielder Matt Henderson laid down a sac bunt attempt, but the Pearl third baseman could not get the speedy Henderson in time, and it was first and third with no outs.
After a wild pitch moved Henderson to second and Hunter Stovall struck out, shortstop Bret Boswell flew to left deep enough to score Moniot with a sacrifice fly. Then Hunter Williams lofted a soft single to right and Henderson scampered home from third.
“That hit by Williams was huge,” said manager Bill Pintard. “We always preach that two-out hits win championships. We knew it was going to be a tough game and their lefthanded starter [Seever] did very well.”
Pintard had high praise for his own starter. “Every time Kyle takes the mound, we expect to win. He’s one of our aces. We know were going to get a buy who will compete and battle.”
“I try not to do too much,” added Johnson, a University of Texas pitcher. “I try to keep the ball over the plate, pitch to contact, and let my great defense do the work behind me.”
Johnson stuck to his game plan, and allowed only one hit and a walk while striking out five. No Pearl runner reached second base until the dramatic ninth, which included Stovall throwing out a potential run at the plate.
Foresters’ action in the double-elimination CCL playoffs continues at 2 pm on Saturday, with the Foresters taking on the winner of the late Friday game. The Foresters games can all be heard on AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.