Foresters present thicker challenge
The Gold Sox had lost four straight games coming into their California Collegiate League series with the Santa Barbara Foresters last season.
Yuba-Sutter promptly dropped three of four to the Foresters, who encountered little opposition on the way to their 10th league title in 11 years.
With a victory over the Folsom Pioneers today, the Gold Sox will have posted eight straight wins. Santa Barbara (27-7) is in town beginning Friday.
Maybe most importantly, Yuba-Sutter will also be well rested while Santa Barbara is in the middle of a five-team, 11-day road trip. The Gold Sox did not have to travel this week after completing a stretch of 23 games in 27 days.
“If we play better than .500 on this trip, I'll be really proud of my guys,” said Santa Barbara manager Bill Pintard, who doubles as the league commissioner. “It's a rough road trip.”
Eighteen current or former Santa Barbara players taken in Major League Baseball's Amateur Draft in June, including first-rounder Richie Robnett, who recently came to terms with the Oakland A's.
Santa Barbara enters play Wednesday night with a 9-2 league record, one-half game ahead of Yuba-Sutter (11-5). Even though the standings are close, the Gold Sox don't want to lose any more ground in the loss column.
“It will be a challenge for us,” Gold Sox manager Brad Peek said. “They're defending (National Baseball Congress) champs and runner-up to Taiwan overall. They're also defending league champs.”
In many ways, the league title is more for bragging rights for Yuba-Sutter and Santa Barbara. The Foresters have already secured a spot in the NBC World Series due to their finish last year, and the Gold Sox simply are not interested in the postseason tournament.
Pintard said his team doesn't run as much as last year, but Santa Barbara (27-7) is 120-for-149 on the bases. Yuba-Sutter has been successful in 58 of 68 steal attempts.
Outfielder Chris Pettit (Loyola Marymount) leads the Santa Barbara regulars with a .360 average, two homers and 13 RBIs. Infielder Bill Hart (USC) is the top run-producer with 21 RBIs.
Peek said Eric Thompson (5-1, 1.56) will start the nonleague game today against Folsom with Craig Ayers (4-1, 2.09), Nicolas Waechter (3-0, 2.57) and Vince DeCoito (2-1, 2.08) scheduled for the Foresters.
Waechter is coming off his no-hitter against the Salinas Packers last week.
“I feel confident in all four of those guys,” Peek said.
Pintard said he will likely start Brant Rustich (3-0, 2.00), Tim Shoeninger (5-0, 1.67) and Jeff Stevens (4-2, 3.56) in the series.
Santa Barbara will play road games against the San Francisco Seals and Solano Thunderbirds after its stay in Marysville.
The Gold Sox enter today with catcher Buddy Morales leading the team in hitting with a .343 clip, although second baseman/outfielder Frank Jeney is leading Yuba-Sutter in a number of offensive categories, including hits (42), doubles (12), triples (3), RBIs (23) and total bases (60).
Yuba-Sutter beat Folsom 10-0 in a single game on June 18. Thompson and two relievers combined on a five-hitter.
Appeal-Democrat assistant sports editor Matt O'Donnell can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.