By Jim Buckley
The Foresters will play for the national championship . . . again!
A stirring 2-1 victory over the El Dorado Broncos in Friday’s semifinal sets up a rematch of the 2011 NBC World Series Championship Game. Saturday at 5 pm (SB time), Santa Barbara once again takes on the Seattle Studs to try to win a second straight national title. The long road of summer that began in May ends Saturday.
To beat the Broncos, the Foresters got more great pitching and clutch hitting. After both teams scored once, the game turned in the sixth. In the top of the inning, El Dorado finally got to Foresters starter Cody Dickson (pictured), who gave up a hit and a pair of walks to load the bases with no outs. In a pressure-packed situation, T.J. McGreevey came on in relief and got three straight outs without allowing a run (a force out at home, a strikeout, and a groundout). Then, inspired by that great performance, in the bottom of the inning, Santa Barbara struck right back. Robert Vickers singled, moved to second on yet another single by Austin “Hit Machine” Davidson (his three hits in this game moved his NBC World Series average to .522), and scored what would prove to be the winning run on a groundout by Ryan O’Hearn.
With the lead, McGreevey got three more outs, then turned the game over to his Wichita State teammate Albert Minnis. The lefty was sterling, allowing only a walk and a hit in two innings. The final out was dramatic, however. With two outs and a runner on second, O’Hearn made a diving stop of a grounder to first before flipping to Minnis covering to close the game on a very close play.
In the fourth inning, the Foresters had struck first with a run on a single by Davidson, but El Dorado matched that in the top of the fifth, scoring on a sac fly. Dickson pitched well, allowing only that one run and two hits while striking out four. The two Shockers, playing in their home city, closed the deal with four scoreless innings of relief. On the other side, El Dorado starter Brandon Faulkner was nearly good enough, scattering eight hits and striking out seven while allowing only the Sters two runs.
The Foresters will try to become the first team since 1994 to repeat at NBC World Series champions, and they’ll have to do it against a team they beat last summer to earn the 2011 title. In that game, Santa Barbara won 1-0; an early run held up agasint Seattle’s unusual pitcher-an-inning “rotation.” Both teams this summer, however, arrive at the title game with identical 6-1 records. It’s winner take all, one game to decide the national championship. This marks the Foresters’ fifth trip the the NBC World Series championship game since 2003 and their ninth straight season finishing in the national top four, a record unmatched in the past three decades of NBC play. They’ll try to make it four titles in seven years and two in a row on Saturday night. Visit the Foresters Facebook page and let the team know you’re supporting them!
Photo of Cody Dickson from earlier game by Eric Isaacs.