After pouring over its first two opponents like a wave at Rincon, the Foresters encountered some choppy seas in their third game at the NBC World Series. So they called on every part of their crew—hitters, pitchers, and fielders—to sail safely home with a 4–3 victory over the Fairbanks Goldpanners that left them at the top of their four-team group. Santa Barbara will take on the Northwest (WA) Honkers on Thursday in a quarterfinal game. That game will begin at NOON on Thursday, August 11.
It took a comeback effort to earn the win. Fairbanks scored a pair in the first off starter Zach Esquivel. But Esquivel limited the damage by striking out Fairbanks shortstop Tanner Negrette with men on second and third. The two runs put the Foresters in a hole for the first time since July 22, and then Fairbanks added a third in the second inning.
Santa Barbara then scored the game’s next four runs to take the lead. The eventual game-winning score came in the seventh when first baseman Hunter Williams rolled a two-out, seeing-eye single into right field to score centerfielder Kyle Isbel with the go-ahead run. That gave the first baseman they call “Big Country” three RBI on a pair of singles.
“It’s just great to have guys on base in front of me, so when I do get a hit they can come in,” Williams said. Manager Bill Pintard noted that Williams is recovering from a hand injury and has been playing hurt, but “came through like the clutch player he is.”
While the Foresters bats were battling back, the Santa Barbara bullpen once again held back the floodwaters. Four relievers pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings to give Santa Barbara time to come back, with Jackson Sigman earning the save with a perfect ninth.
“How about our bullpen?” enthused manager Bill Pintard. “This is the first time that I’ve coached here that we’ve used all the pitchers that we brought. We threw guys we hadn’t thrown and there was no margin for error. We turned the game over to two young guys—Miles Sandum, who’s 18, and Tanner Lawson, who’s 19—and they came through in an intense game.”
Defense helped, too. With the game tied 3-3 in the sixth, the Goldpanners had a chance to take the lead. With one out and a runner at third, Cole Krzmarzick hit a bouncer up the middle, but Foresters second baseman Hunter Stovall charged from second base and fired to home. Catcher Steven Coe held on tightly and made the tag as baserunnner Jake Browne crashed into him.
“On that play, we knew the runner at third was not a good runner,” added Pintard. “So we played the infield about halfway. In fact, the pitch before, I yelled at Hunter to come in even more. Then Hunter made a great play, and Coe made a remarkable pickup of the throw. That was the play of the game.”
Before that drama, though, the Foresters had to tie the game. Down 3-0 in the third, Stovall led off with a single on a 3-2 pitch. Shortstop Matt Henderson worked a walk and Isbel moved both runners along with his third sacrifice bunt in three games. After Bret Boswell popped out, Williams laced a two-out single into left to score the Foresters’ first runs.
Boswell did come through in the fourth, driving his own two-out single to right to score Henderson with the tying run. That gives Boswell eight RBI in three games, second among all NBC World Series hitters.
“We were tested tonight,” concluded Pintard. “And we rose to the occasion.”
The victory put the Foresters atop Pool C with a perfect 3-0 record. They’ll join three other 3-0 teams and four 2-1 teams in the quarterfinals that will all be played on Thursday. The time of the game will be announced later on Wednesday.—Jim Buckley