On a night of already historic magnitude, the Santa Barbara Foresters doubled down.
The Foresters won the final National Baseball Congress World Series to be played at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Saturday with a 6-5 victory over the NJCAA National Team that came with drama of its own. The championship gave the club and NBC Hall of Fame coach Bill Pintard a tournament-record seventh title.
“It’s a great story,” Pintard said. “My son was diagnosed with cancer and was named the tournament’s most inspirational player even though he couldn’t play on the field in 1994. Ever since they did that, this has been very, very special to me.
“And to win this record championship and to come back like we did after a hairy top of the ninth, to do it with courage and energy was tremendous.”
Santa Barbara walked four batters in the top of the ninth and allowed three runs to score with two outs. That tied the game 5-5 going into the bottom of the inning.
The NJCAA National Team couldn’t find the zone either. The Foresters started the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff single to right field from Logan Allen and put two more on after two batters were hit by pitches.
That set up tournament MVP Patrick Mathis with the bases loaded and no outs. He won it with a walkoff walk.
Just a week ago, Mathis wasn’t even on the team, and about a month ago, he was in the Houston Astros organization. He joined the Foresters just to stay sharp.
Mathis said he did much more than that.
“This is just another stepping stone for me in my journey to get back to professional baseball,” he said. “But it was fun to kind of step down and make it fun again. Going before, it was a job. Here, it was just about having fun, going out and playing the game we love.”
Mathis rocked a home run to left field in the bottom of the first that scored Wichita State junior Luke Ritter. Ritter, who drove in a run as well, said being part of history in more ways than one was a special experience.
“I really can’t describe it,” he said. “To do it here (in Wichita) with these guys is incredible. It’s baseball. It’s fun. Everybody just meshed together great.”
The NBC World Series is set to move to Wichita State’s Eck Stadium in 2019 because of heavy renovations needed to Lawrence-Dumont that pushed the city to move toward its demolition.
Ryan Cash, Foresters and Oklahoma State second baseman, said to come into a club as storied as the Foresters and make more of it, especially on a night that was emotional for so many people, was cool to do with this group of guys.
“Coming together in early June and playing 40-some games and becoming brothers with these guys (is what makes it special),” he said.
2018 marked the Foresters’ 26th straight appearance at the NBC World Series, another tournament record. After the championship, Pintard was handed the microphone, and he spoke to the Lawrence-Dumont crowd for the last time.
“To win the last NBC game here in this stadium is a special honor,” he said. “Hog diddy. Stir it up.”