Santa Barbara (Calif.) didn’t get to the winners bracket final with its offense. When the Foresters needed their bats, however, they came through in a big way.
The Foresters, defending NBC World Series champions, are the tournament’s lone unbeaten after Wednesday’s 8-6 win over St. Joseph (Mo.) at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The Foresters play Thursday and with a win move to Saturday’s championship night. Their opponent must beat them twice to take the title away.
Santa Barbara entered Wednesday’s game hitting .216 and it hadn’t score more than six runs in four games. It took five innings — and 12 hits — to break that ceiling. The Foresters knocked Mustangs starter Adam Maddox out in the fifth, taking a 7-5 lead, and went to work on the bullpen.
The bottom half of the order did much of the damage during the 18-hit attack. No. 8 hitter Shane Hoelscher went 3 for 5, scored twice and drove in two runs. No. 9 hitter Zach Fish went 3 for 4 and drove in a run. Ryan O’Hearn, batting sixth, went 3 for 5.
The Foresters won their 12th straight NBC game, last losing to the Seattle Studs in 2010. They went 7-0 to win the 2011 tournament and are 5-0 this year. St. Joseph falls into the losers bracket and plays Thursday. It must win four games to win the title.
"We know they have it in them," Foresters coach Bill Pintard said. "Sometimes they get in these tournaments and they try to do too much. We're plenty tired enough that we can just relax and let their talents come out. It was just a matter of time, I believe, until they got it done."
Santa Barbara broke a 5-all tie in the fifth on RBI hits by Hoelscher and Arby Fields. Austin Davidson’s sacrifice fly in the sixth extended the lead to 8-5.
Reliever Albert Minnis, from Wichita State, inherited that lead and made it stand up with his propensity for getting groundballs. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed one ball to leave the infield. He struck out two, retired five on groundballs and one on a pop up to the shortstop. In the eighth, he worked around his own throwing error with one out.
The Mustangs took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, helped by a fielding error by the Foresters. After Saulyer Saxon singled, Kyle Simpson dumped a ball in front of the right fielder. Fish jumped for the ball, and it bounced over his glove and rolled to the wall.
Saxon scored easily and Simpson cruised into third. He scored on Tanner Lubach’s fielder’s choice.
The Foresters, three-time NBC champions, cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first. They took a 3-2 lead in the second after Maddox surrendered singles to Jacob Felts and Hoelscher to start the inning. Fish, the No. 9 hitter, drove in Felts with a double to tie the game. Hoelscher scored on a fielder’s choice by Richy Pedroza to take a 3-2 lead.
The Foresters continued to pressure Maddox, who last pitched on July 24, in the third. O’Hearn doubled to the wall in right-center to drive in Austin Davidson and take a 4-2 lead. O’Hearn scored on Shane Hoelscher’s single to make it 5-2.
Saxon changed the tone of the game with his at-bat in the fourth with the Mustangs down by three runs. St. Joseph put two runners on with two outs and Saxon fell behind 0-2 to Ian McCarthy. Saxon then fouled off five two-strike pitches, peppering balls past third base, before working a walk. Kyle Simpson singled to right to drive in two runs and cut the score to 5-4.
Kris Koerper completed the comeback with a leadoff home run in the fifth, a no-doubter that cleared the wall in right-center. Koerper blasted his first homer of the tournament and the 12th of the NBC.