WATCH THIS SPACE FOR A FULL REPORT ON THE FORESTERS’ 6-2 NBC WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP WIN!!! Record-tying sixth title for the Sters and Pinner.
Lex Kaplan blasted a long single over the San Diego Force rightfielder to cap a thrilling three-run rally in the bottom of the 12th inning to hand the Foresters one of the most dramatic wins they’ve ever earned at the NBC World Series, 7-6. The semifinal triumph sends them into the national championship game, which will start Saturday at 5 pm Pacific, only about 13 hours after this one ended at 4:26 am Wichita time.
“That was one of the intense, grind-it-out games I’ve ever seen a Foresters team play,” said manager Bill Pintard after the team returned from storming the field to celebrate. “There was frustration early, but we calmed that down and just grinded it out. We fell behind twice, but we never said die. We never gave up. I’m so proud of these guys and what they did this morning.”
It was indeed one of the most agonizing, shocking, and hair-pulling games of the season—or any season. On late Friday night, Santa Barbara waited through a 17-inning marathon in the first semifinal, pushing their planned 9:30 pm start to nearly 1 am Wichita time, Saturday morning. Then the team seemed to take a while to wake up and fell behind 4-0. But they scratched back to tie the score at 4-4 in the eighth inning on a pinch-hit double by Colby Barrick.
The Foresters then squandered several chances to win earlier in extra innings until the Force forced them into their walk-off heroics by scoring two in the top of the 12th.
In the bottom of the 12th, down 6-4 and with one out, Hank LoForte beat out an infield hit. Matt Henderson then had one of the most memorable and gutsy at-bats anyone can remember. Fouling off pitch after pitch, or taking balls with precision, he finally slapped a 3-2 pitch into left field with LoForte in motion, setting up first and third. Kyle Isbel then worked a walk to load the bases.
And then came Bret Boswell. The CCL MVP and the author of 11 RBI already at the NBC World Series—but handcuffed for six straight at-bats by Force pitching—did what he has always done. He came through in the clutch, rolling a single past a diving second baseman to score LoForte and Henderson and tie the game. After Hunter Williams struck out, Kaplan, the spiritual heart of this year’s team, did what he did. Foresters players poured onto the field to mob Kaplan after he rounded first.
Let the wild rumpus start!
“We just refused to lose,” Pintard said. “This team just refused to lose this game. We wanted to play one more game.”
Reaching that memorable moment in the 12th took quite a bit of baseball, however.
In the first inning, the Force was certainly with San Diego, as they scored two runs off usually unhittable Foresters starter Kyle Johnston, the CCL Pitcher of the Year. San Diego added two more in the third, thanks in part to a rare error by Foresters shortstop Matt Henderson.
Johnston left the bases loaded in that third inning, and continued to live dangerously in the innings to come. He stranded a pair in the fourth, and then runners in scoring position in the fifth and sixth.
Meanwhile, Foresters hitters were baffled by Force starter Nick Vautrian, scratching out only two Lex Kaplan hits through four innings.
In the Foresters’ fifth, however, they solved the puzzle.
Tyler Adkison led off with a double and after a Steven Coe groundout moved Adkison to third, Hank LoForte lined a single to left to score Adkison with the Foresters’ first run.
With LoForte on second after a stolen base, Matt Henderson drove a ball toward first that led to all sorts of trouble. The ball skipped off the first baseman’s glove, so Henderson reached first but as the ball rolled away, LoForte sped home. The first baseman’s hurried throw got away from the catcher, so Henderson continued to second. But the Force shortstop grabbed Henderson as he ran by second, so Henderson was awarded third base.
Kyle Isbel ripped the first pitch he saw into right to pull the Foresters to within a run, 4-3. Relief pitcher Keaton Leach then struck out the hot-hitting Bret Boswell and Hunter Williams.
Reliever Matt Hartman took over for Johnston in the seventh and was excellent. In two innings, he struck out four and put the Force down 1-2-3 in the eighth for the first time in the game. Jackson Sigman then struck out two in the ninth, to start off three perfect innings. Tanner Lawson came in as the final Foresters pitcher to close out the 12th after the Force scored and he ended up the winner.
Again, the Foresters play on Saturday evening in the 82nd NBC World Series Championship Game, starting at 5 pm. The game can be heard starting at 445 pm on AM 1290 and will be broadcast live nationally on ESPNU.
Assuming the Foresters ever got to sleep, that is. —Jim Buckley
PS: Special kudos to John Martony, the voice of the Foresters on AM 1290 for staying with it and calling every dramatic moment of this thrilling game!