by Nate Loop
The Sters may be able to put wins together on a regular basis, but they don’t always do so in a conventional fashion. In a one game series against the Southern California Halos, the Foresters relied on their faithful closer and some clutch hitting to come away with a 5-4 victory, despite some controversial officiating decisions.
Halos starter Casey Rodriguez walked a fine line between disaster and triumph during his outing. In the first two innings, he loaded the bases with two outs, but both times was able to come away with a key out to keep the Foresters from scoring. He threw 63 pitches in those two innings, walking four batters and also hitting one.
Zach Fish finally ended the Foresters run of futility with a one-out RBI single in the third inning for the 1-0 lead.
The Foresters backed up Kirby Bellow’s fine starting pitching performance, and were able to take a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning, despite some dubious officiating by the umpire crew.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Foresters looked to add to their 2-0 lead and had the bases loaded with no outs. Fish hit a grounder to the third baseman Allen Gwynn, who stepped on third for the force out. However, no call was signaled by the umpire, and Nick Melino was stranded between third and home, unsure if he had an open base to run back too. Gwynn tagged Melino for the second out. Tyler Pearson, on second and unaware he had been forced out, broke for third and was tagged out again by Gwynn. The Halos and the officiating crew inexplicably called this a triple play, and left the field. Taylor Stell, who had been on first during the fiasco, attempted to sneak a run across as the teams ran off the diamond, but the umpires finally realized their gaffe and had to call time to finally restore order.
It was decided there was a double play, and the Foresters would have runners on first and second with two outs. All of this deliberation came to nothing, as Taylor Stell was caught trying to steal third immediately after the dust settled on the field.
This missed opportunity allowed the Braves to come back in the top of the seventh and tie the ball game at 3-3. Brandon Shoemake, who was the team leader in ERA at a paltry 0.61, had his worst outing of the season, giving up the two runs that brought the Halos back into the game.
Fish would be ejected by the umpire for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the seventh inning, presumably unhappy with the way the fifth inning had been called during his last at bat.
The Sters were able to pull through for two runs in the bottom of the eight inning. Austin Davidson singled in Shane Hoelscher, then scored himself on a sacrifice fly by Richard Sanguinetti to give the Foresters a 5-3 lead.
Once again, Hunter Lemke trotted out to the mound for the ninth inning. He was shakier on this outing than he had been all season. He gave up one run to the Braves to make it 5-4, but eventually got the necessary outs to record his fifth save in as many days, cementing his status as the Sters most dangerous reliever.
The Sters now move on to take on Team Vegas for their final three games of the regular season. Help cheer on the Sters, as a sweep of Team Vegas will guarantee them a share of the CCL crown.