By Dillon Reagan
In a back and forth contest from the fifth inning on, the Santa Barbara Foresters were able to deliver the final blow with three runs in the top of the eighth to defeat the Conejo Oaks 7-4. The ‘Sters are now 4-1 against the Oaks on the season with the lone loss coming in a non-league game in the Rawlings California Cup.
The Foresters offensive attack was led by the trio of Dillon Dobson, Granger Studdard, and Bret Boswell, who combined for seven hits, four doubles, a homer and five RBI. The ‘Sters are now 23-0 when scoring at least five runs.
The Oaks struck first in the bottom of the third, as a triple by left fielder Rick Nomura and the ensuing sacrifice fly gave Conejo a 1-0 lead. The run broke a string of nine consecutive innings in which Foresters starter Kyle Kubat had not allowed a run. The Nebraska product worked through five innings on the day, giving up three earned runs while striking out two.
The Foresters were unable to put a runner on through the first four innings, struggling with Oaks’ starting pitcher Michael Miller. However, after three perfect innings, Miller was pulled in favor of Blake Redman, who retired the side in the fourth before surrendering Santa Barbara’s first base runner of the game in the fifth, a lead off double to left center by Studdard.
Jeremy Montalbano followed with a single deep in the hole at short, and his Longhorns teammate Boswell then produced with a RBI knock to right to tie the game and put runners at first and third. After Boswell was caught stealing, Dave Graybill hit a screaming liner over the third baseman’s head, giving the ‘Sters a 2-1 lead.
Conejo responded in the bottom half of the fifth, as slick-fielding shortstop Manny Jefferson hit a lead off double down the right field line. The Oaks then used small ball to tie the game, as a sacrifice bunt followed by a sacrifice fly brought the run home.
The ‘Sters quickly took the lead back in the top of the sixth, as star shortstop Dobson hit a towering solo home run to right, making the score 3-2. The smash was Dobson’s fifth homer of the season, tied for the team lead.
Unfortunately for Santa Barbara, Conejo followed with a pair of runs to take back the lead. After Tommy Pluschkel reached on an error, a couple singles brought in the first run of the inning.
After a walk, Dalton Brown entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs. Despite the predicament, Brown battled and only allowed one more run to score on a sacrifice fly, ending the inning with a failed sacrifice squeeze and a fly out to left.
After threatening and failing to score in the seventh, the Foresters were able to break through in the eighth inning to take back the lead, the third lead change of the game.
The Oaks’ third reliever of the day, Jacob Leyba, hit Ford Stainback with his first pitch. The ‘Sters then followed with a trifecta of doubles to take a 6-4 lead.
First, Dobson hit a rocket to left center to bring Stainback around and even the score. Studdard then hit a sinking liner down the left field line to score Dobson and put Santa Barbara on top. After a strikeout, Boswell produced the final blow with a deep double to right center over the charging center fielder’s head, scoring the third run of the frame.
The ‘Sters tacked on another run in the top of the ninth due to a couple Conejo errors, but it wasn’t needed with the brilliant relief pitching of John Williamson and Troy Cruz. Together Williamson and Cruz shut the Oaks out over the final three innings while giving up two hits and striking out two.
With the win the Foresters are now 29-7 overall and 24-5 in California Collegiate League Play, good for first place. The ‘Sters are off tomorrow but thirteen of our guys will play in tomorrow’s CCL All-Star game, which will be on Fox Sports West at 7 PM. The ‘Sters are back in action at San Luis Obispo on Thursday, with first pitch at 6 PM.