Fleet-footed Foresters get fourth win

The amount of hits on the scoreboard did not reflect the outcome of the game as the Santa Barbara Foresters were outhit 9-7 by the Atwater Aviators on Wednesday evening. But timely hits and another night of aggressive base running allowed the Foresters to come out with a convincing 7-1 win over the visiting Aviators.

The running game was led by left fielder Ben Johnson, who swiped three of the Foresters’ six stolen bases. The University of Texas sophomore leads the team with five stolen bases on the season.


“We have to play aggressive and take what they give us,” said Forester manager Bill Pintard. “They’re giving us those bases so we are going to take them. We aren’t going to sit back.”

Timely hitting was also important for the Foresters, who are not an offensively powerful team. Though the Foresters were outhit by the Aviators, catcher Shane Rowland said that the Foresters’ hits came at better times than those of the Aviators’.

“Our team is great at situational hitting,” Rowland said. “Hits don’t have to come in bunches. It’s not about how many hits we get, it’s about how many runs we put up.”

A leadoff single from Johnson got the ball rolling early for the Foresters, who took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. After Johnson stole second, he scored on an error by Aviator third basemen Nick Jewett to put the Foresters on the board.

Johnson scored again in similar fashion in the fifth inning to extend the lead to 2-0. After walking, he stole second and third, then scored on a balk from relief pitcher Shinnosuke Yagi.

The Aviators responded with a run in the top of the sixth inning when they loaded the bases on singles from Bobby Hosmer, Jeff McGarry and Cain Spanlger. Forester reliever Brendon Shoemake walked Corbin Bennett to score the Aviators’ lone run. Shoemake then settled down to strike out Karson Canaday to escape the jam.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Foresters blew the game open in the bottom of the sixth. To lead off the inning, Rowland was hit by a pitch and Shane Crawford was walked to put runners on first and second. With one out, shortstop Keaton Jones put a squeeze bunt down the first base line that scored Rowland.

“That was the play of the game,” Pintard said of Jones’ bunt.

Designated hitter Nick Stroh crushed a two-run triple to extend the lead to 5-1. Stroh said that he knew he needed to find a way to score the two base runners to put the game out of reach and secure the win.

“We were in a tight ballgame,” Stroh said. “I wanted to find a pitch that I could drive and put those two guys in.”

The Foresters added another run in the same inning, then tacked on one more insurance run in the seventh.

With a sizeable lead and a four-game weekend approaching for the Foresters, Pintard decided to save his bullpen in the later innings and sent pitching coach Sean Tracey out to throw the final three innings of the ballgame.

“We have been light on pitchers because we don’t have everyone in yet,” Pintard said.

Tracey, who made seven appearances for the Chicago White Sox in 2006, pitched for the Foresters in 2000 and 2001. He struck out three and allowed just one hit over the three innings that he pitched.

“It was a non-league game… so we weren’t breaking any rules,” Pintard said. “Sean came in and not only did he pitch well, but he saved the bullpen for us.”

The Foresters, now 4-0 to start the season, will need their bullpen this weekend as they play four games in four days, beginning with their first road game on Thursday against the Santa Paula Halos. The matchup against the Halos will also be the first California Collegiate League game for the Foresters.

The team then returns to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium to take on Neptune Beach Pearl in a two-game series on Friday and Saturday. They round out the weekend with a Sunday matchup against the Bay Area Warriors.