Foresters provide plenty with first-inning explosion

Ben Johnson capped off a nine-run, 12 batter first inning, with an inside-the-park home run as the Santa Barbara Foresters cruised the rest of the way, eventually winning 16-1 over Team Berkovich Gold on Friday.


With their ace, Drew Van Orden, on the mound and a nine-run lead in the first inning, the Foresters took control of their own destiny in the Rawlings California Cup. With one game left against the Conejo Oaks, who sit at 1-1, the Foresters could advance to Sunday’s championship game with a win or a loss, depending on the results and scores of Saturday’s games.

Currently, the Foresters are the only 2-0 team in the Southern division. With the lowest runs allowed and the highest run differential, both tie breakers sit in possession of the Foresters before the final day of round-robin play begins.

Van Orden took the mound Friday, a week after he struck out 11 against the MLB Academy Barons on June 28. Already leading the Forester starters in most categories, Van Orden added to his stellar totals with seven strikeouts in a short five inning, 69 pitch outing.

With the pitching more than taking care of their end, the Forester offense erupted for nine in the first inning.

After Colt Atwood reached on an error, Johnson singled and Joey Epperson walked, Garrett Mattlage cleared the bases with a triple. The three runs would be more than enough for the Foresters, but even more runs came home after a pair of groundouts.

Ryan O’Hearn walked, Jerry McClanahan singled and Keaton Jones walked before Atwood doubled in two more. After a wild pitch scored Jones, Johnson ripped a ball past the diving center fielder and raced around the bases to cap off the scoring.

Four different Foresters ended the day with two RBIs each. Colt Atwood, Ben Johnson, Louie Lechich and even Austin Darby, who entered in the fifth, finished with a pair of runs driven in.

A parade of Forester arms ventured out to the mound following Van Orden, all holding down Bercovich to maintain the astronomical lead. Nick Kern made his Forester debut in the sixth, striking out two. Justin Rahn, Jace James and Hunter Lemke each pitched one scoreless inning to close it out.

In the fifth inning, the Foresters added another five runs to push the lead to 16-1. McClanahan singled to lead off the inning, Jones added another single and Atwood walked to load the bases again. Austin Darby doubled in two more before Joey Epperson sacrifice flied in another.

Garrett Mattlage hit another tripled, driving in Darby, and scored on an error that allowed Louie Lechich to reach base to finish up the scoring. Mattlage finished the day 2-for-4 with two triples and four RBIs.