By Taylor Jennings
Great pitching was offset by underwhelming defense on both sides, as the Foresters lost their first game of the season to the OC Riptide, 3–2. Even after committing three errors, the ’Sters were in it at the end, stranding the tying run on third in the ninth. Only a rough sixth inning prevented a fifth straight ’Sters win.
Foresters starter Jake Jackson did his job, allowing no runs and a hit in five innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead. He had to work around a pair of uncharacteristic errors committed by his infield in the first two innings. Unfazed, the Nevada Wolfpack junior worked his way out of each jam without surrendering a run.
Santa Barbara scored first in the fourth. Consecutive singles from Zach Presno, Blake Hall, and Jacob Katzfey resulted in a run. Unfortunately, the ’Sters then ran themselves out of the inning, as a bizarre episode of baserunning miscues quickly ended the frame. After Ross Cadena popped up, Hall and Katzfey were picked off on the same play, as an inside turn from Riptide pitcher Devin Sutorius resulted in both runners occupying second base. Katzfey was called out by rule, while Hall mistakenly assumed he had been retired and vacated the base, only to be tagged out to end the rally.
With a one-run lead, flame-throwing right-hander Brock Helverson relieved Jackson in the sixth, and the Riptide promptly rallied. Helverson’s upper-90s heaters did not appear to affect the Riptide lineup, as they frustrated the West Virginia sophomore with a series of singles. Of the first five hitters in the inning, three reached base via soft fly balls which fell harmlessly to the Irvine turf. s Riptide right fielder Dylan Rock finally got the hosts on the board, as he lofted a soft liner to right to drive in a pair. Chad Crosbie added to the Riptide advantage with an RBI single to right.
The Foresters called on Brad Demco, who quickly found himself in a 10-pitch battle with Riptide backstop Connor Aoki, but the southpaw managed to limit the damage and strand a pair when Aoki waved at a wicked 3-2 bender.
The Foresters had a chance to score following Surtorius’s exit after issuing a one-out walk in the top of the seventh. Reliever Andrew Beavais walked the first man he faced, setting the table for the newest Foresters, Conor McKenna and Tevin Tucker. However, after McKenna flew out to right, Chad Crosbie preserved the two-run Riptide lead with a sprawling catch in left, robbing Tucker of extra bases.
After completing a scoreless eighth, Riptide reliever Marrick Crouse ran into trouble in the ninth. The OC defense nearly gifted the Foresters a late inning comeback. Katzfey reached second on a two-base error by first basemen Daniel Jung. Two batters and two outs later, the Riptide appeared primed for a celebration. Down to the Foresters’ final strike, McKenna lofted a routine fly ball to left. However, the fly ball clanked off of the left fielder’s glove for another two-base error, scoring Katzfey. Speedster Diego Harris came in to pinch run for McKenna and immediately took third on a curve in the dirt. With the game-tying run now just 90 feet away, Crouse shut the door when he froze Tevin Tucker with a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner.
The Foresters’ offense was led by Eric Kennedy, who finished 3-4 with a double and a stolen base, and Katzfey, who notched a pair of hits and recorded the team’s only RBI.
The Foresters continue their mid-week road trip against the Arroyo Seco Saints tomorrow in Pasadena; first pitch is scheduled for 6:00 pm on AM 1290.