Almost by the dawn’s early light, the Santa Barbara Foresters pulled out a dramatic 7-6 victory over the San Diego Force in 12 innings in the semifinals of the National Baseball Congress World Series. The game ended at 4:26 a.m. Saturday in Wichita, and the Foresters will return to the diamond at 7 p.m. (5 p.m. Santa Barbara time) to face the Hays (Kansas) Larks in the title game that will be televised on ESPNU.
The Larks won an epic showdown of their own to reach the final, overcoming the Kansas Stars, a team mostly made up of former major leaguers, 9-6 in 17 innings.
San Diego scored twice in the top of the 12th to take a 6-4 lead. The Foresters came back with a bases-loaded single by Bret Boswell to tie the score, and with two out, Lex Kaplan came through with a long single into right field to drive in the winning run.
It was the second comeback for the Foresters. They trailed 4-0 early but tied it up 4-4 in the eighth on a pinch-hit double by Colby Barrick of Santa Ynez.
The Foresters have a shot at their sixth NBC title, which would put them at the top of the tournament’s winningest teams along with the Fairbanks Gold Panners. The Alaska squad won its six titles between 1972 and 2002. Santa Barbara won its first in 2006.
Hays will be seeking its first title. The Larks have finished second four times. They had to work eight extra innings Friday night to overcome the Stars, who came back from a 6-0 deficit. The Stars, organized by first baseman Adam LaRoche, ran out of position players in extra innings and put pitcher Brad Penny in left field.
RIO UPDATE: Barbara Nwaba of Santa Barbara was in 16th place after five events of the heptathlon at the Rio Olympic Games. She has a chance to get into the top 10 with good marks in the final two events Saturday, the javelin throw and the 800-meter run, which will start at 6:50 p.m. Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton has work to do to get into medal territory, as she stood in fifth place.
In women’s water polo, the No.1-ranked U.S. team rolled to an 11-6 victory over Hungary to finish on top of its group with a 3-0 record. Hungary and the U.S. were tied 2-2 after the first period. A goal by Kiley Neushul of Santa Barbara made it 3-2 , and with the score tied again at 3-3, Maggie Steffens put the Americans ahead for good on an assist from Santa Barbara’s other starting player, Kami Craig.