Photo by Vic Neumann
By Will Bashur
No matter how bleak the odds looked, the Foresters refused to surrender, and fought their way back to secure a victory against the San Luis Obispo Blues, 4-3. The ‘Sters needed a bit of help to achieve the comeback, and help is exactly what they got as the Blues made several head-scratching decisions toward the end of the game.
The game started with a scare when left fielder Conor Davis hit a rocket straight into the right side of Blues pitcher Ben Kirke’s head, who immediately fell to the ground clutching the spot of impact. Trainers and coaches quickly escorted Kirke off the field and into the care of paramedics.
Following Kirke’s injury, reliever Frankie Scalzo entered the game and threw three straight balls including a wild pitch that allowed Conor Davis to advance to third. Utah Jones then hit a sacrifice fly to score Davis, giving the ‘Sters an early 1-0 lead.
After his shaky entrance, Scalzo settled down and delivered a masterful performance, surrendering just one earned run while pitching seven innings in relief.
While the Foresters struggled to solve Scalzo, the Blues offense looked to seize the lead. Third baseman Jack Kuzma opened San Luis Obispo’s scoring with a line drive single off Santa Barbara starter Tanner Bibee in the second to tie the game 1-1. Kuzma drove in another run with a sacrifice fly in the 4th, and first baseman Luc Lipcius extended the Blues’ lead to 3-1 with an RBI single in the fifth.
Scalzo continued to cruise until the eighth, when the Blues defense began to unravel. With one out, Ryan Cash hit a sinking line drive down the left field line. Left fielder Marco Murillo seemed to have a bead on the ball, but suddenly slowed down as he thought the ball was drifting foul. Because of his blunder, the ball rolled all the way to the left field corner, allowing Cash to advance to third on a triple. Luke Ritter then drove in Cash with a sacrifice fly to left, and the ‘Sters began to close in on the Blues as the deficit shrunk to 3-2.
From there the momentum swung drastically to the Foresters.
Reliever Thomas Trianon entered in the ninth to close the game, but quickly gave up a line drive single to Utah Jones. Then, Coach Bill Pintard called upon Kamron Fields to lay down a sacrifice bunt. He did, and as Trianon tried to field his bunt, he botched it, allowing Jones to advance to second and Fields to reach first safely. Tyler Hardman then made a successful sac bunt to move Jones and Fields into scoring position.
But the craziness had only begun.
Coach Pintard brought in his second pinch hitter of the inning, Michael Neustifter, who fouled the first pitch he saw. Then, in a bizarre move, the Blues’ manager opted to intentionally walk Neustifter, even though he was behind in the count. Logan Allen then stepped to the plate, and clearly had his head in the game, as he took the first pitch of the at bat off his helmet, driving in the tying run. Ryan ‘ATM’ Cash continued to produce, as he drove in the go-ahead run with a sac fly to give the ‘Sters the lead, 4-3.
But the Blues weren’t quite ready to let Santa Barbara steal a win on their home turf.
In the bottom of the ninth, Foresters reliever Brad Demco gave up a one-out single to catcher Matt Anderson, and subsequently walked Luc Lipcius with two outs to put the tying run on first.
Sensing Demco was starting to lose his command, Coach Pintard called James Notary into the game to close the door on the Blues’ rally. Notary struck out out Marco Murillo on five pitches, quickly silencing the crowd and giving the Foresters a hard-fought victory.
The Foresters will be returning home to Pershing Park on Tuesday for a five-game home stand beginning with a matchup against the Ventura County Buccaneers at 6 PM. Be sure to tune into 1290 AM for full coverage of the game.