Kai Uchio
After getting the force out at second, Santa Barbara second baseman Kai Uchio fires to first base to complete a game-ending double play.  (Lisa Ishikawa photo)

Hours before taking the field for its big Channel League game at Dos Pueblos, the Santa Barbara High baseball team learned it had to forfeit Saturday’s win at Cabrillo for violating the CIF pitch-count rule that requires a pitcher to have one day of rest after throwing between 31-50 pitches and two days after 51-75 pitches.

So how did the Dons respond?

They banged out seven hits, including a three-run triple by Anthony Firestone and a two-run single by Nick Dallow, stole five bases and got clutch pitching from Carter Park and Bryce Warrecker to score a 7-1 victory at a wind-swept Scott O’Leary Field on Tuesday.

The result keeps Santa Barbara in first place in the Channel League at 4-2, tied with Santa Ynez. 

Dos Pueblos falls into a third-place tie with San Marcos at 3-3.

“It was 100 percent my fault,” Santa Barbara coach Steve Schuck said of the forfeit of a 7-6 league win at Cabrillo. “I didn’t communicate well enough with my pitching coach. I thought Carter threw less than the minimum against San Marcos (in a relief appearance on Friday), so I put him in the game against Cabrillo. It was a mistake.”

He apologized to the team and said it would never happen again.

Carter Park

Carter Park pitched four innings and picked up the win for Santa Barbara against Dos Pueblos (Lisa Ishikawa photo)

He told the players, “‘You work too hard for me to take a game away.’

“And you can see what they did — they picked me up.”

Firestone admitted the team was frustrated by the forfeit, “but we really wanted to pick up coach because we knew he didn’t do it on purpose,” he said. “We just wanted pick him up, get a big win today, and get a big win on Friday. It’s big for us.”

Firestone reached base four times and scored a run in the fifth inning before hitting a fly ball off DP reliever Connor Gleissner that sailed to the fence in right-center field for a three-run triple in the sixth. That gave Santa Barbara a 7-1 advantage.

“Coach called me over before the at-bat and told me to shorten up (my swing),” Firestone said. “He always tells me when there are runners in scoring position to shorten up. I get (my teammates) one, they get me the other, so I don’t need to do too much. I shortened-up, barreled-up and, with the wind, it really carried.”

He drove in Bryce Warrecker and Kai Uchio, who reached base on errors, and Nick Oakley, who walked.

“I thought our pitchers did their job,” DP coach George Hedricks said. “We got to make those plays defensively to prevent those big innings. We had three infield errors that led to runs. You can’t give away unearned runs in a game like that against a team that’s doing a good job of putting the ball in play with those runners in scoring position now. They got the guys on and they found ways to get them in.”

Santa Barbara scored run in the first inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Frankie Gamberdella. 

DP starter Mason Boelter struck out the next batter to keep the Dons from having a big inning.

The Chargers tied the game in the third, when Nico Martinez’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly brought in David Leon, who was hit by a Carter pitch to start the inning.

Carter pitched out of the bases-loaded, no-outs jam without any further damage. He also escaped a two-on, one-out situation in the fourth. He pitched with runners on base through all four innings he worked and left the game after giving up a single to start the fifth.

But that’s the Park way, Schuck has learned.

“It’s the way Carter pitches and it’s taken me a little bit of time to get to know him and understand how he works,” said the coach. “And that’s how he works.

“He’s guy who is kind of a free spirit. You can’t instruct him the way through. You got to let him do what he does and realize this is how he does it— step back and take your ego and pride out of it and just let him go play. And look what happens.

“He did a great job.”

Said Park of his approach: “I just think when I have a little pressure on me, I bear down more, I focus more on all my pitches.”

It helped that his teammates gave him runs to work with.

The Dons went up 2-1 in the fourth on a double by Jordan Harris and a RBI single by Jackson Hamilton.

They added two in the fifth on singles by Oakley and Firestone and a two-run double by Nick Dallow to left with one out.

Warrecker finished out the game on the mound for Santa Barbara. In his longest stint of the season, the 6-foot-9 junior pitched three innings, struck out three, allowed three hits, one walk and ended the game by getting the Chargers to hit into a double play.

“He wanted to keep going,” Schuck said of Warrecker, who had pitched just one inning previously since coming out from the long basketball season.

As for his team’s play, Hedricks was encouraged.

“There’s a lot of things we did better today compared to our last couple of games,” he said. “That was encouraging. I think we’re right on the cusp of where we need to be, and today can be a jump start for us. 

“Sometimes you need a little fire, a little spark. We have the confidence going to their place. We had a really good game there last time, so I think we have confidence going in there.”

He wasn’t disappointed the Chargers left 11 runners on base.

“Getting guys on base has been a problem,” he said. “I’m happy we got that many guys on base. That’s one of the things we talked about. We’ve struggled to score this year, so far. For us to have that many hits (6) and that many opportunities was encouraging to see.

“We’re a base hit away, a dinker away, a passed ball away actually from taking the lead in that game and possibly shifting momentum.”

They’ll get another chance on Friday at Santa Barbara’s Eddie Mathews Field.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.