Dons dive over the rainbow and into playoffs

If Hawaiian music legend Izzy Kamakawiwo’ole is singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” at Eddie Mathews Field, it means Santa Barbara High’s baseball team has just picked up a win.

The ukelele was-a-strummin’ over the loudspeakers Friday afternoon, and it meant that the Dons had avoided missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

After San Marcos defeated Ventura 5-4 in the day’s early game, the Dons were able to get their two best pitchers on the hill to halt the Royals 3-2 and advance to the postseason out of the 3-way tie for third place in the league.

Gavin Feuer, in just his second appearance back from injury, hurled four shutout innings and sore-armed sophomore Danny Zandona handled the rest to hold off the Royals, who have emerged from the Channel League cellar this season to become a top horse in the conference race.


The Dons had the luxury of playing at home thanks to a coinflip, and it also allowed them to sit out the first game of the day and await its winner.

“That was the biggest,” said coach Fred Warrecker with a smile. “We knew that when the game was over that Izzy was gonna serenade us, and there’s certainly a comfort zone playing at home.”

Back-to-back RBI singles by Spencer Fraker and Trey Barrett put Santa Barbara up 2-0 in the first inning, and the Dons added their third in the next frame when Pepe Gil scored from third on a double-play ball hit by Will Allison. San Marcos jumped right back into it when the ball jumped off of Andy McCumber’s bat in the sixth for a 2-run homer.

Zandona, who had taken over after Feuer’s sparkling four innings of 3-hit ball, stayed composed and retired the next four batters in order to end the game. Ironically, the biggest at-bat was the one before McCumber’s, when Zandona and San Marcos catcher Riley Moore faced off in a showdown of standout sophomores. Moore had hit two homers off of Zandona during the season, but only got a single off of him this time.

“I was a little bit nervous and actually happy that he just got a bloop single, but then the next guy went yard,” said a relieved Zandona, with a big bag of ice wrapped around his shoulder. He had pitched earlier in the week and had just six innings of eligibility left heading into Friday.

“After yesterday’s game (a loss at Dos Pueblos) I came back here and went jogging to get the blood flowing in my arm and it worked, because I felt pretty good today,” he said.

The Royals also had concerns about finding ready arms to take the hill, but Shane Wieland’s six innings of work against Ventura gave at least a little bit of breathing room. Senior ace Sam Marshall came in to close out the game for the Royals, who got the game-winner in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Landon Boneck. San Marcos had put up three quick runs on the Cougars in the first inning, but a long and frightening injury delay in the next inning slowed them down a bit.

Moore, arguably the team’s best hitter, took a foul tip to the neck but shook it off and caught the next at-bat. He then started getting woozy, however, and was helped off the field. An ambulance came to take him to the hospital, but he went to the doctor with his family instead. Thankfully, the lanky 10th-grader was back before the end of the game, having suffered some swelling that made it hard for him to breathe. He was good-to-go for the second game.

The Cougars had a 4-3 lead before Victor Acevedo crushed a ball well over the fence in left field to tie things up in the fourth. Ventura committed a costly error that led to Boneck’s RBI, and coach Paul Togneri was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the seventh.

The Royals were playing again just about 30 minutes after the first game ended, and despite an excellent effort from Mac Gostow — who took over for Marshall after the first inning and gave up just three hits the rest of the way — they couldn’t climb out of the hole.

“We battled all year long and practiced hard all the time,” said Marshall. “We won three must-win games this week with our backs up against the wall, we just didn’t quite have enough to finish up this last game.”

McCumber, who credited coach Rob Crawford for sparking the team’s turnaround, said that the sting of defeat would eventually fade.

“A couple of days from now it will. We set our goals really high, and we wanted to win league,” he said. “We knew we could, and I still believe we could have. We just kind of hit a tough patch offensively.”

Speaking of tough patches, the Dons will likely face a top seed on the road in Friday’s opening round of the Division II bracket.

“It’s gonna be wicked, but the whole point is we made it. That’s what counts,” said Warrecker, with Iz still singing in the background.


San Marcos…000 002 0 — 2 5 1

Santa Barbara…210 000 X — 3 6 2

Marshall, Gostow (2) and RMoore; Feuer, Zandona (5) and Fraker.

2B — SB: Crummer. HR — SM: McCumber (6th inn., one on).


Ventura…013 000 0 — 4 7 1

San Marcos…300 101 X — 5 7 1

#30, #56 (1), #46 (3), #33 (5) and Castro; Wieland, Marshall (7) and RMoore, Price (2).

2B — V: Carr, SM: RMoore, Cavalier, Acevedo. HR — SM: Acevedo (4th inn., solo).