Photo by Vic Neumann
By Will Bashur
In what was supposed to be a final tuneup before the much-anticipated CCL playoffs, the Foresters were upended by a fiery Coastal Cubs team, who defeated Santa Barbara 5-2 on Thursday. The Cubs rode shutdown pitching and timely hitting on their way to the stunning upset.
Foresters starter Tanner Bibee was knocked around early, giving up two runs and five hits through three innings of work. The Cubs’ bats attacked from the start, as Ryan Guardino dropped a bloop single into shallow center to drive in Gabriel Barthelmass, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.
Designated hitter Jake Schmeling tacked on another run in the third with an RBI single, putting the Cubs up 2-0.
Even though the Cubs made consistent contact, Bibee still displayed exceptional command of the strike zone, as he struck out six Cubs and walked just one batter. Unfortunately for Bibee, the Cubs kept finding holes between infielders and empty space in the outfield, prompting an early exit for the Cal State Fullerton Titan.
The ’Sters offense finally began to break through Cubs starter Tyler Chivens in the fourth, when John Jensen and Connor Woods smoked a single and a double to begin the inning. With two runners in scoring position and nobody out, catcher Turner Gauntt delivered, hitting a sac fly to center that scored Jensen and moved Woods to third. Brandon Zaragoza then reached on a costly error by third baseman David Martinez, allowing Woods to score easily. At the end of four, the ‘Sters had climbed their way back into the game and knotted the score at 2-2.
But the Foresters still had not seen the best of the Cubs pitching staff.
Kodi Koorndyk entered in relief of Chivens, and immediately shut down Santa Barbara’s offense.
Koorndyk pitched two and a third innings of scoreless ball, striking out two ’Sters and allowing just three baserunners. Koorndyk kept Santa Barbara at bay in time for his offense to provide run support.
In the seventh, the Cubs struck for two more runs off Foresters relievers Gavin Velazquez and Bailey Reid. Reid struggled with his command from the get-go, throwing three wild pitches and walking two batters. Matt Thomas stuck a dagger in Santa Barbara’s heart with a two-run single off Reid, giving the Cubs a 4-2 advantage.
Braeden Gowdy, another strong Cubs reliever, entered in the seventh and preserved the Cubs’ two-run lead. Gowdy threw two scoreless innings, striking out three Foresters to prevent any sort of offensive resurgence from Santa Barbara.
The Cubs added a key insurance run in the eighth when Broc Mortensen crushed a triple off Foresters late-inning reliever Miles Sandum, and then scored on a passed ball that tipped off the glove of the catcher Gauntt. Heading into the ninth, the Cubs were up 5-2.
Santa Barbara City College pitcher Mike Jacobson entered for the Cubs in the ninth, and crushed any hopes of a comeback for the Foreseters. Jacobson used an overpowering fastball and devastating slider to strike out the side without breaking a sweat, securing the 5-2 victory for the Coastal Cubs.
Although disappointing, the loss is just a minor blemish for the Foresters, as they officially won the regular season CCL championship, and are headed into the CCL playoffs on Saturday as the No. 1 seed. The ’Sters will take on either the Conejo Oaks or the San Luis Obispo Blues on Saturday at 4 PM at Cal Lutheran University. If Conejo wins on Friday against Healdsburg, they will be the Foresters’ playoff opponent. However, if the Oaks fall to Healdsburg, the ’Sters will face the Blues.
In either case, be sure to tune into 1290 AM for full coverage of the game on Saturday.