Offense Shines, But Defensive errors loom large in loss to Foresters

SANTA BARBARA, CA- The Arroyo Seco Saints (4-2) had their best offensive game of the season spoiled by the formidable bats of the Santa Barbara Foresters (4-2) who somehow managed to put up even more runs than the Saints on Saturday afternoon at Sparky Anderson field.   


Believe it or not, the game actually started scoreless for both teams. It wasn’t easy for Saints’ starter Caleb Reyes (Cal Poly Pomona), who had to navigate a bases-loaded jam. But he got out of it unscathed. 


But in the second, the offensive outburst began for the Saints, who loaded up the bases themselves. Joey Donnelly (UC Berkeley) scored on a balk to break the tie, and Adrian Lopez (USC) walked to reload the bases. Cam Conley (Pepperdine) then broke the game open, as he knocked a hit into right field that ultimately turned into a three-run triple after it took a wild bounce off the outfield grass. The score stood at 4-0 when the top-of-the-second dust finally settled


The Foresters didn’t take kindly to the four-spot on their home field, and they battled back for a couple of runs themselves. But catcher Alex Birge (UC Berkeley) threw out a Forester runner trying to steal which helped Reyes preserve the Saints’ lead, 4-2. 


And they weren’t nearly done hitting either. After a scoreless third inning for both teams, Birge drew a walk to open the fourth. Then, Kole Dudding (Oral Roberts) crushed a double, and it seemed like he and Birge were going to be on second and third respectively with nobody out. But the Foresters made a couple of errant throws, and suddenly Dudding had a little league home run.


Jakob Schardt (Fullerton) came up a batter later and lined a single to start a new rally. After the Foresters finally got an out, Lopez smashed a single of his own to put runners on first and third with one out. He stole second base during the next at-bat. The Foresters got another out, and for a moment it looked like they would end the rally and limit the damage. 


But not so fast said Donnelly who crushed his second double of the game, knocking in both Schardt and Lopez. Suddenly the Saints’ lead had ballooned to 8-2, which is where it stood at the end of the half inning. 


In the bottom of the fourth, the Foresters got three runs back including two on a home run by Jonah Sebring (UCSB). But again, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Saints who still held an 8-5 lead. 


With one out in the top of the fifth, Birge drew another walk. And this time, Dudding decided a double-with-errors home run wasn’t enough. He crushed an out-of-the-park home run over the right-center field fence, the Saints’ first roundtripper of the season. The Santa Barbara crowd could only watch in shock as their mighty Foresters had ten runs put on them in five innings and were facing a five-run deficit. 


But if the Foresters were stunned, they certainly didn’t show it, and they didn’t quit either. Instead, they put together a 4-run rally of their own to pull within one run. In fact, they almost tied the game then and there and if it weren’t for a heads-up play by Conley getting a runner in a pickle and throwing home to Birge who tagged out that potential tying run. 


Unfortunately, they couldn’t add to their lead as they went scoreless again. The bats that had been so scorching hot the first few innings suddenly could hardly make contact. 


Luckily, Andrew Wright (Fullerton) also kept the streaking Foresters’ bats in check and the game went into the seventh still at a 10-9 score. 


The Saints couldn’t put anything together in the top of the seventh though, and in the bottom of the seventh, there was no cooling off Sebring. He crushed his second homer of the night and the Foresters took their first lead of the contest, 11-10. 


They added an insurance run in the eighth to make it 12-10, and it felt like all momentum was on their side. But the Saints, who have already built a reputation in this young season for fighting until the very end, were going to go down swinging. 


But both of their first two hitters of the ninth were swinging and missing, and suddenly all hope lay on the shoulders of Ray Bermudez (Portal). Bermudez wasn’t nervous one bit. He took the Foresters’ closer deep to dead center for a solo shot that brought the Saints back within 1 run, 12-11. 


The next batter was Birge, who was hit by a pitch. Easton Elliot (Portal) came on to pinch run for Birge and drew an errant pickoff throw that allowed him to advance all the way to third base. The fate of the Saints now rested on whether Dudding had one more heroic moment in him to bring Elliot home. 


For a moment, it looked like he did. A ground ball down the line at third base took a huge hop and the throw was late for an infield hit…but instead of signaling safe the first base umpire made the signal for foul ball. A couple pitches later, Dudding popped up and the Saints, who had victory in their grasp several times throughout the night, lost a heartbreaker 12-11. 


It was a great night for many of the Saints individually, including Dudding and Conley who each had three RBIs and Donnelly who had two. Also, Schardt reached base all five times including four hits on the day. He’s 6-for-8 in his last two games, both of which he’s led off the batting order, and has raised his average to .471. 


There’s also no denying this one was an instant classic and an incredible game to witness for all the fans in the stands, and fans around the college baseball world surely will have the next meeting between these two teams on Wednesday June 26 circled on their calendars. 


But for now, the Saints take their first trip to Compton on Tuesday for a matchup with the MLB Academy Barons. Trajan Lee (Trinity) is the probable starter for the Saints as they look to bounce back with a big road win. 


  • Saints reporter Ethan Inman (USC)
  • Saints photographer Armando Jacobo (Long Beach)





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