The Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters entered Thursday's quarterfinals of the National Baseball Congress World Series as the lone undefeated team. A win over the Haysville Heat would mean a day off today and an automatic spot in Saturday's championship game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"We really wanted to get this done tonight," Foresters coach Bill Pintard said. "We didn't want to have to wait for anything else."
The Foresters overcame a one-run deficit after six innings to defeat the Haysville Heat 6-4. The Heat was eliminated from the World Series with the loss.
"We wanted to stay undefeated and go into the championship game and make another team beat us twice," said pitcher TJ McGreevy, who got the win after throwing the game's final 3 1/3 innings. "We're feeling real confident right now going into the championship game."
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It was a disappointing finish for the Heat, which committed three errors. But it didn't shake coach Rick Twyman's faith in his team, noting the difficulties the Heat has dealt with, specifically with the death of his father, Dick "Chief" Twyman.
"This team has battled adversity all year," Rick Twyman said.
While Santa Barbara had a two-run lead after five innings, Haysville pitcher Cory Trudell had a nice showing, striking out eight in six innings.
The Foresters could have had a bigger lead but failed to capitalize in the fifth. Shane Kroker, the Foresters' No. 9 hitter, hit a fly to center. Haysville's Andrew Archbold dove, but he didn't make the catch and the ball went to the wall. Kroker was later thrown out at home on a grounder to first by Brett Vertigan.
Jeff McNeil hit a liner to right, scoring Vertigan for the 2-0 lead. McNeil tried to stretch his hit into a double, but was thrown out at second base to end the fifth.
"They were making plays all over the place," Pintard said. "That's when we knew we were in a tough battle."
Foresters pitcher Austin Dicharry held Haysville scoreless through the first five innings, giving up three hits during that span, striking out four.
But the Heat finally found its offense in the sixth when Casey Johnson opened the inning with a liner to left. He scored when K.C. Pfister tripled to left. Pfister scored on Mike Moore's sacrifice.
With one out in the sixth, McGreevy entered after not even throwing a warmup pitch in the bullpen. He gave up an RBI single to P.J. Garcia, who knocked in Robbie Rea, who had doubled.
"I didn't want to give them anything to hit," said McGreevy, who pitches for Wichita State. "I left one over the plate and he got a hold of it. But after that I felt like I found my rhythm. I was able to get in on hitters. I was able to get a lot of grounders and my two-seam fastball was sinking."
Trailing 3-2 after the sixth, Santa Barbara answered in the seventh.
With the bases loaded, Heat pitcher Danny Gidora fielded the ball and threw home to catcher Scot Palmer. While Foresters' right fielder Joe Wallace was out on the force out, Palmer stretched to make the play awkwardly, his legs splayed out wide.
Twyman said Palmer dislocated his right hip.
The Foresters' next batter, Jeff McVaney, hit a three-run triple to center. But on the throw to third to get McVaney, the ball was too high and McVaney scored for the 6-3 lead.
"We had 15, 16 errors in the tournament," Twyman said. "You can't win a championship playing like that."