By Jim Buckley (photo by Nick Masuda): “Refuse to lose.” That was the clarion call of the Foresters Thursday night as they came from behind to win in walk-off fashion, 6-5 over the Conejo Oaks. Santa Barbara’s 13th straight victory also clinched the championship of the CCL South Division. Kendall Pettis (pictured) drove in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth to kick off the summer’s wildest celebration (so far).
“That’s become our motto,” added manager Bill Pintard. “As we were battling there in the tenth, our guys were saying, ‘This is going to be a fun game to win.’”
It sure was a fun game to watch. Both teams had big hits, both teams had sequences of pitching domination, both teams scored late. The Foresters did the lasting damage, however, scoring two runs in the bottom of the tenth to overcome a 5-4 lead by the Oaks established in the top of the inning.
After giving up that go-ahead run on a throwing error, the Foresters wasted no time jumping back into action. Seth Stephenson led off the tenth with a base hit up the middle. He promptly stole second and when the ball sailed into center, wound up on third. With one out, Josh Stinson chopped a ball high over the third baseman’s head, scoring Stephenson with the tying run and ending up on second, in scoring position for the walk-off.
Pettis, who had struck out looking when pinch-hitting earlier, came through with a hard ground ball that zipped past the shortstop. The throw from the outfield had no chance to nail the speedy Stinson and the Foresters piled out of the dugout to surround the hitting hero of the night, Pettis.
The action-packed tenth was a fitting ending to a great back-and-forth ball game.
The Oaks took the first lead of the game in the opening inning, when Brendan Bobo smacked a two-run homer over the right field fence. Santa Barbara scratched one back in the third, as Seth Stephenson grounded out to score Max McGwire, who had singled and made his way around to third.
The Oaks got their two-run lead back in the fifth with just one hit. A player who walked came around to score from third on a wild pitch.
However, in the sixth, the Foresters put together their first rally of the night. Following the “two-out hits win championships” mantra, Tanner O’Tremba singled and then Steven Zobac walked. Both stole to advance a base. O’Tremba then scored on a wild pitch and then Zobac came home to tie the score 3-3 on hot-hitting Jared Thomas’s double to right. The big Thursday night crowd responded with a roar as Thomas stood on second and “Sterred it up!”
Santa Barbara got its first lead of the night in the seventh. With pinch-runner Kade Higgins on first, Ethan Bates sliced an inside-out liner to left that eluded a diving outfielder. Higgins steamed around to make it 4-3 Sters.
However, Bobo made short work of that deficit, leading off the eighth with his second homer and it was 4-4. All that action and there were more fireworks to come.
Chase Webster earned the win with a scoreless tenth, and both Brandon Beckel and Carson Lambert pitched effectively. Conejo’s starter Cody Adcock struck out eight Foresters, but eventually was touched up for three runs.
After the game, Pintard also revealed just how important the tenth inning rally was. “That was our last position player up there at the plate, we were going to have to pinch-run pitchers next, and Chase was our last pitcher.”
With the CCL title in hand, the Foresters continue their march toward the NBC World Series with the final two home games of the summer—Friday at 6 pm vs the Academy Barons and Saturday at 6 vs the Saints.