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Foresters Improve Their Record Start to 14 Wins in a Row

Foresters beat Arroyo Seco for 14th straight win Click to view larger
Brandon Zaragoza hits a single to score Ryan Cash from third base in the Foresters’ 6-3 win over the Arroyo Seco Saints. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Foresters flashed their leather and wood on Saturday night while getting another solid pitching effort in a 6-3 baseball triumph over the Arroyo Seco Saints at Pershing Park.

The Foresters extended their best start to 14-0. They’re in first place in the California Collegiate League with an 11-0 mark and hold a 3½-game lead over the Orange County Riptide (7-3). The Saints have lost seven of their last nine and fell to 4-9 and 3-7.

Veteran coach Bill Pintard says he’s “trying not to get too absorbed” with his team’s perfect start.

“It feels really good and what makes it so good is we’ve been getting contributions from different guys every day,” Pintard noted.

The Foresters snapped a 3-3 tie with a run in the seventh and two more in the eighth. Conor Davis, an outfielder from Auburn who flew into LAX on Thursday and joined the Foresters for their game at the Southern Cal Catch, got his first hit as a Forester with a one-out double to right-center in the seventh. After a strikeout, Ryan Cash came through with a line-drive single to center that scored Davis with the go-ahead run.

“I was a little anxious on the first pitch, trying to get my first hit, and Coach Schuck told me to slow it down,” said Davis, a 6-3, 227-pound junior. “I got ready a little earlier on the next pitch and took advantage of it.

“I love this team. I’ve been here 2½ days and the talent is unreal. We’re stacked in pitching, hitting and defense. Coach did a good job of getting a lot of great players.”

Luke Ritter was hit by a pitch and John Jensen singled to open the eighth. With one out, Utah Jones delivered an RBI single to center and Jensen went to third. Jensen scored on a passed ball to make it 6-3.

Forester starter Caleb Sloan struck out the first five batters and seven of the first nine. He went 4 2/3 innings and gave up three runs (none earned) on three hits. He got into trouble in the fifth when he hit a batter and Notre Dame catcher Bryce Gray doubled to the left-field fence. Colin Shepherd bunted up the first-base line and Sloan threw the ball off his back for a three-base error that scored two runs. The third unearned run came in on a single by Drew Cowley that tied the game 3-3.

Isaac Coffey relieved Sloan with two outs and a runner at first. He got Tristan Peterson to pop-out to first base to end the threat. Coffey was replaced after a flyout and a walk in the sixth, and Pintard said it was probably the last appearance with the Foresters for the ex-Dos Pueblos High star who’s heading to Oral Roberts.

“Coffey has thrown a lot of innings this spring and summer,” said Pintard. “He wanted to keep going and I tip my hat to him. I wanted to see Elliott (Anderson) in a left-on-left situation and this was his first opportunity. He came in and did a great job.”

Four Forester pitchers combined on a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts, five walks and a hit batter.

Anderson, a 6-3 left-hander from Auburn who joined the Foresters on Thursday, came in with one on and one out in the sixth inning of a tie game and got Cooper Williams to hit into a 5-4-3 double play on the first pitch.

Anderson pitched 2.2 innings of no-run, no-hit ball to earn his first win with the Foresters. He walked two and struck out two.

“Anderson pitched great in relief,” said Pintard. “He’s a big strong lefty who can throw it 90 miles an hour. And he’s not afraid to pitch inside to get the right-handers out too.” 

The Foresters outhit the Saints 9-3, with Brandon Zaragoza and Jones both going 2-4.

Zaragoza, a slick-fielding junior shortstop at Oklahoma, made a spectacular leaping catch of Peterson’s line drive leading off the fourth. Jones, who’s played shortstop, second base, first base and center field this year, got the start at first base and had an adventurous night.

Jones, who grew up in Stillwater, Okla., and plays for North Greenville University in South Carolina, was named for Johnny Utah, the Keanu Reeves’ character in the film cult classic “Point Break.” He got the last out in the fifth by calling off the pitcher on a high pop-up and making a diving catch on the pitcher’s mound. He ended the seventh frame by diving across the foul line behind first to catch a high foul ball that drifted back onto the field.

“Those balls were tough to read, especially since I’m playing first base which I really haven’t played ever in my life,” said Jones. “It’s a different look, a different angle and I was just happy to make the plays. On the second one, the ball was drifting back and I actually tripped and just stuck out my glove and got lucky.” 

The Foresters jumped ahead 3-0 after four innings. Cash and Logan Allen walked with one out in the third. Zaragoza executed a perfect hit-and-run to score Cash from second base, then Allen came home on a fielder’s choice by Ritter. 

In the fourth, Michael Neustifter (who made his first start at catcher) doubled down the left-field line and was thrown out at home on Jones’ hard infield hit that bounced off the second baseman into foul territory. Jones went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a grounder by Conor Davis that was booted by the shortstop.

“We needed a catcher today and Neustifter stepped up,” said Pintard. “Chase Illig had played every inning of every game, so we gave him a day off. Kameron Guangorena has a tender arm and is out for three days. Neustifter has caught at Oklahoma State but he hasn’t caught in two years. He told me he could catch tonight and he did a fantastic job. I really want to commend him.”

The Foresters improved to 8-0 at home, where they’re outscoring their opponents 52-19. They’ll battle the Saints again on Sunday with the first pitch at 2 p.m. 

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