It's a tradition in California for the San Diego Wave and the Santa Barbara Foresters to open the summer baseball season against one another.
That series, swept by the Foresters a little over two months ago, turned out to be a preview of the winner's bracket final of the National Baseball Congress World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Wednesday night.
Players have shuffled through each team's lineups, but the result didn't change — Santa Barbara is the only unbeaten team in the tournament following Wednesday's 7-0 victory.
Santa Barbara will play at 7:30 tonight against the winner of Wednesday night's late-game between the Haysville Heat and the Seattle Studs, while the Waves will face the Kenai Peninsula (Alaska) Oilers in the 5 p.m. game.
"They've changed and we've changed," Santa Barbara manager Bill Pintard said. "But it's always a good rivalry. It was basically like the same as when we saw them the first time."
San Diego had a regrettable performance in the rematch, committing six errors that led to all seven runs. Pair that with a four-hit effort by three Santa Barbara pitchers and there weren't many positives to take away from the game.
"We've got to turn the page now," Waves' manager Junior Taele said. "This game is what it is, we lost. We've got to come back tomorrow and play again and not let it affect us."
But credit goes to the Foresters, which forced San Diego into several pressure situations with their aggressive baserunning.
The tone was set innocently enough in the third inning when San Diego third basemen Max Duvall botched a play to allow the first runner on base. That was followed by a sacrifice bunt, which Duvall and pitcher Jeff Neptune thought the other was grabbing and allowed the runner reached safely.
Santa Barbara capitalized by stringing together three straight hits after that to score three runs and break open the game.
"We try to play a quick offense," said Santa Barbara's Derek Legg, who finished with three hits and drove in a run. "As long as we put the ball in play and don't strike out, it gives them a chance to make an error."
It may not seem like much of a strategy, but San Diego made it one as it repeatedly booted the ball around.
Santa Barbara was constantly on base and applying pressure on the Waves' defense. After Brett Vertigan singled in the sixth, he stole second on the next pitch. Then he stole third and scored on an errant throw.
"We like to run a lot," Vertigan said. "We were getting on base a lot, so we had a lot of chances. We're usually attempting to steal in the first two pitches."
Santa Barbara scored three more runs in the seventh, stemming from two more San Diego errors.
"They certainly made their fair share of errors, but we had a lot of guys in motion in the running game and we were pushing the envelope a bit," Pintard said. "They gave us a little opening and we took advantage of it."
It puts the Foresters in a very favorable position in the tournament, but Pintard wasn't letting his team relax just yet in his postgame talk.
"He told us every team here is good and anybody can beat somebody twice," Legg said. "We can't mess around now, we've come too far. We have to come out and keep on winning."