By Ryan Waltermire
Granger Studdard crushed three homeruns, refusing to let the San Luis Obispo Blues pick up their second win in a row against the Foresters. With most of the offense supplied by Studdard, the ‘Sters defeated the Blues 7 to 6 Wednesday night at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. After a quiet offensive weekend during the Rawlings California Cup tournament, Studdard refused to let Blues starting pitcher Dominic Taccolini get him out early in the game, as all of his homers came in Taccolini’s 3.67 innings of work.
The Foresters and the Blues traded blows early, with the Blues seeming to answer every offensive run the ‘Sters would post. However, the Blues could not come up with the decisive seventh run that allowed the Foresters to win their fourth game out of five against the Blues in the season series. The win gave the Foresters a 21-4 record in league, with a five game advantage over the rival Blues.
Sam Odom (2-0) started the game on the mound for the Foresters, but struggled to find command of his pitches early and only lasted three-plus innings. Odom surrendered two earned runs, his first two of the season, as he picked up the no decision in his third start. The bullpen was solid, only allowing two runs over the final six innings of the ballgame.
The Foresters struck first in the bottom of the second inning, as Granger Studdard belted a solo homerun about 410 feet to right centerfield. Little did he know, this would be his first act in what would become a memorable night for Studdard. The ‘Sters scored three more in the inning after Colt Atwood drew a bases loaded walk and Ford Stainback drove in two runs with a groundball to the first baseman that found its way into right field after an unsuspected hop.
The Blues answered immediately in the top of the third, scoring one run on a fielder’s choice after Odom loaded the bases. Odom nearly came out of the inning unscathed, but Sheldon Neuse beat out a double play a half step scoring the runner from third.
Studdard lead off the bottom of the third with another solo homerun, a mammoth shot about 420 feet to dead center. Studdard’s long ball increased the Foresters lead to 5-1. After loading the bases for the second straight inning, Blues pitcher Taccolini escaped further damage in the third, forcing Jake Vickerson to ground into double play to end the threat.
The Blues came back swinging in the fourth, scoring two runs in the inning. After Odom surrendered one run, Brian Trieglaff relieved him, inheriting runners on first and third. Trieglaff nearly pitched his way out of the inning with no further runs, but David Greer misplayed a ball at third base, scoring a run to cut the score to 5-3.
In his final act, Studdard sat back and drove a 1-2 curveball well over the right centerfield fence for a two-run homerun. This was Studdard’s third homerun of the game in as many at-bats and innings, increasing his season total to four. It seemed that there was no turning back at this point, as the Foresters took a 7-3 lead, but the Blues were not going to let down.
The Blues came right back and cut their deficit to one run, 7-6, in the top of the fifth inning, capitalizing on sloppy defense. Dalton Brown entered the game after Trieglaff pitched himself into trouble, and managed to strand runners on first and third, preserving the one run lead.
Relief pitcher Alec Hansen, a six foot seven right-handed sophomore from Oklahoma, kept the game close for the Blues, as he struck out eight out of the nine Forester batters he faced over his three hitless innings of work. Hansen commanded his fastball well, and proved to be the only Blues pitcher that could cool down Studdard on his magical night.
Brown and Matt Withrow combined to silence the Blues over the final four innings, but the Blues kept it interesting. In the top of the eighth inning with Withrow on the mound, it appeared that Jacob Hoyle tied the game at seven with a sacrifice fly to Vickerson in right field. Instead, one of the more unlikely plays in baseball ensued. After the Forester defense appealed, umpires ruled that Blues shortstop Erik Lewis had left third base early in his attempt to tag up, erasing the run and ending the inning for the Blues. Withrow closed the door again in the ninth inning, striking out a total of four while picking up a six out save, his first of the year.
Relief pitcher Brian Trieglaff picked up his first win in 1.67 innings of work and starting pitcher Dominic Taccolini was plugged with the loss for the Blues. Tonight’s EP 19 player of the game went to who else but Granger Studdard, who ended his spectacular night with three homeruns and four runs batted in. Deservedly, Studdard along with 12 other Foresters were recently named to the CCL All Star game, which is being held on July 16 at the MLB Academy in Compton, California. The Foresters return to Caesar Uyesaka on July 11 as they take on the LA Brewers in the first of an important three game series.