Santa Barbara beat Seattle 3-2 in 12 innings on Saturday night for its fifth National Baseball Congress World Series championship since 2006, and the Foresters were thankful for the protocol.
Manager Bill Pintard earned the traditional Gatorade shower following the victory, an easy call for players who had no customs to fall back upon the last time their emotions led toward their manager.
Pintard’s mother, Kay, died at age 94 while the Foresters were en route to Wichita from California nearly two weeks ago. Most of the team was on the bus at the time and knew Pintard was awaiting news, but they weren’t sure how to handle it when it arrived.
“When we first heard it, nobody knew what to really say,” said Santa Barbara outfielder Jaylin Davis, who doubled twice, scored two runs and made a key defensive play from center field. “We kind of just left it alone, and when we got here (he discussed it).”
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“…We’re more than just a team. All of us have come together – it feels like we’ve been together three or four years and this was our first year together. That’s what helped us the most.”
Pintard thanked his mother when he was inducted into the NBC Hall of Fame on Thursday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and again after the Foresters won Saturday on Granger Studdard’s RBI double in the top of the 12th inning.
Eleven days ago, Pintard was unsure of how to best honor his mother, as he considered stepping off the Foresters’ bus in New Mexico to return home. A conversation with his brother, Dave, convinced Pintard to stay the course, since his mother is largely responsible for his love for the game.
Ten years ago, Pintard’s son, Eric, once a Foresters pitcher, died after battling brain cancer for nine years.
“It wasn’t a distraction of my mom’s passing, but it became kind of a cause,” Pintard said. “My brother said, ‘Hey, why don’t you stay on that bus and win one for your mom?’ And I said, ‘That’s right, why don’t I do that?’ So that’s why the game of baseball has been a blessing for me. It (also) helped me deal with my son’s illness. … Baseball is my life, and I’m glad it is.”
The Foresters provided enough drama on Saturday to complete – and accent – a poignant story, first preserving a chance to win in the 10th and then delivering on one two innings later.
Seattle’s 10th began with a single, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk that brought slugger Bobby LeCount up with two runners on and one out. LeCount lined a single to center, where Davis was playing shallow in preparation for a possible throw home.
Davis’ throw was up the first-base line, but catcher A.J. Kennedy, a defensive replacement, snagged it before lunging to his left to tag out Connor Savage just before Savage’s foot reached home plate. Santa Barbara escaped the jam one batter later.
“It was just trying to get it in quick,” Davis said. “It was big on A.J. to pick me up and make a nice play to tag him out.”
The Foresters still needed to reward their strong defense and their chances to score, which was a difficult proposition even though they had been stuck on two runs with 14 hits before Studdard came through.
Santa Barbara tied it 2-2 in the eighth but wasted a chance for more. Steven Reveles bunted with two runners in scoring position, but it appeared the runner on third, Dillon Dobson, was unaware it was coming. He made a hesitant break toward home and was tagged out easily.
The Foresters got two singles in the 10th but both runners were retired on the bases. Studdard finally solved the lack of clutch with a line-drive double that sailed over the head of left fielder Jose Ruiz. Studdard had been 0 for 5 but was facing soft-tossing right-hander Taylor Thompson for the second time.
“After one at-bat with him, you get the sense he has nothing to beat you with,” Studdard said. “You’ve just got to wait for your pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Santa Barbara’s bullpen combined for six innings without allowing an earned run, continuing its pattern of standout relief. The Foresters beat Seattle for the third time in their three championship games, and it allowed Pintard to reinforce the acceptance of his loss.
“I had spent a couple days with my mom right before I left,” Pintard said. “I was at peace with her and she was at peace with me. I got to say some final words to her once the doctors said it wasn’t looking good. I thought she would have some more weeks and I’d be able to get the trophy and go home and show it. But she saw it tonight.”