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Baseball

Foresters Reach NBC World Series Final in Dramatic Fashion

Team rallies for three runs in 12th inning to defeat San Diego Force in a semifinal game that ends at 4:36 a.m.

The Santa Barbara Foresters pulled an all-nighter to reach the championship game of the National Baseball Congress World Series.

Lex Kaplan blasted a long single over the San Diego Force right fielder to cap a thrilling three-run rally in the bottom of the 12th inning, and the Foresters scored one of the most dramatic wins they’ve ever earned at the NBC World Series, 7-6, in the semifinals on Saturday morning in Wichtia, Kan. The game ended at 4:26 a.m.

The Foresters will play the Hays Larks of Kansas in the championship game at 5 p.m., PT Saturday. The Larks defeated the Kansas Stars 9-6 in 17 innings on Friday in the other semifinal.

Lex Kaplan drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Click to view larger
Lex Kaplan drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk File Photo)

The championship game will be broadcast live nationally on ESPNU.

The Foresters and Force didn't start their game until 1 a.m. Wichita time, Saturday morning.

Santa Barbara got off to a slow start and fell behind 4-0. But it fought back and tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth inning on a pinch-hit double by Colby Barrick.

The Foresters squandered several chances to win earlier in extra innings until their walk-off heroics in the the 12th.

“That was one of the intense, grind-it-out games I’ve ever seen a Foresters team play,” said manager Bill Pintard after the team returned from storming the field to celebrate. “There was frustration early, but we calmed that down and just grinded it out. We fell behind twice, but we never said die. We never gave up. I’m so proud of these guys and what they did this morning.”

Down 6-4 in the 12th, Hank LoForte beat out an infield hit before Matt Henderson had one of the most memorable and gutsy at-bats anyone can remember. Fouling off pitch after pitch, or taking balls with precision, he finally slapped a 3-2 pitch into left field with LoForte in motion, setting up first and third. Kyle Isbel then worked a walk to load the bases.

And then came Bret Boswell, the California Collegiate League MVP and the author of 11 RBI already at the NBC World Series Handcuffed for six straight at-bats by Force pitching, Boswell came through in the clutch, rolling a single past a diving second baseman to score LoForte and Henderson and tie the game. After Hunter Williams struck out, Kaplan, the spiritual heart of this year’s team, ripped his single to right to win the game. Foresters players poured onto the field to mob Kaplan after he rounded first.

“We just refused to lose,” Pintard said. “This team just refused to lose this game. We wanted to play one more game.”

Reaching that memorable moment in the 12th took quite a bit of baseball, however.

In the first inning, the Force was certainly with San Diego, as they scored two runs off usually unhittable Foresters starter Kyle Johnston, the CCL Pitcher of the Year. San Diego added two more in the third, thanks in part to a rare error by Foresters shortstop Matt Henderson.

Johnston left the bases loaded in that third inning, and continued to live dangerously in the innings to come. He stranded a pair in the fourth, and then runners in scoring position in the fifth and sixth.

Meanwhile, Foresters hitters were baffled by Force starter Nick Vautrian, scratching out only two Lex Kaplan hits through four innings.

In the Foresters’ fifth, however, they solved the puzzle.

Tyler Adkison led off with a double and after a Steven Coe groundout moved Adkison to third, Hank LoForte lined a single to left to score Adkison with the Foresters’ first run.

With LoForte on second after a stolen base,  Henderson drove a ball toward first that led to all sorts of trouble. The ball skipped off the first baseman’s glove, so Henderson reached first but as the ball rolled away, LoForte sped home. The first baseman’s hurried throw got away from the catcher, so Henderson continued to second. But the Force shortstop grabbed Henderson as he ran by second, so Henderson was awarded third base.

Kyle Isbel ripped the first pitch he saw into right to pull the Foresters to within a run, 4-3. Relief pitcher Keaton Leach then struck out the hot-hitting Boswell and Williams.

Reliever Matt Hartman took over for Johnston in the seventh and was excellent. In two innings, he struck out four and put the Force down 1-2-3 in the eighth for the first time in the game. Jackson Sigman then struck out two in the ninth, to start off three perfect innings. Tanner Lawson came in as the final Foresters pitcher to close out the 12th after the Force scored and he ended up the winner.

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