There were no corks popping at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Sunday after the Santa Barbara Foresters clinched the championship of the California Collegiate League. It was the 14th time the team won the league pennant, and it has a bigger prize in mind-a repeat victory in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
Forty-two semipro teams from around the country are competing at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kansas, for the title that the Foresters won last summer. Santa Barbara’s first game will be Saturday against the Moreno Valley Rockets. The scheduled starting time is 5:30 p.m. PDT, and the action will be broadcast locally on 1340 AM.
The Foresters had to win two out of three games against the Santa Maria Indians during the weekend to clinch the CCL title outright. After a 10-1 Santa Barbara victory on Friday and a 10-0 Santa Maria win the next night, it came down to Sunday’s finale. A crowd approaching 1,000 turned out on the sunny afternoon-with a distant curtain of smoke from the Zaca Fire providing an ever-present backdrop behind the centerfield fence.
The Foresters smoked the visitors, banging out 20 hits in a 16-2 victory that improved their season record to 42-8. Comparing this year’s team to last year’s NBC champions, Santa Barbara manager Bill Pintard said, “We’ve got more power, but we’re not as good defensively.”
The team’s slugging percentage (total bases per at-bat) is a robust .487, with six batters topping .500. The big three are Rebel Ridling (.407 batting average, 11 homers, 51 runs-batted-in, .763 slugging), Andy Preston (.389, 3, 50, .570), and Devin Shepherd (.356, 5, 38, .570).
The lineup of the ‘Sters is so loaded that Pintard had Kyle Russell, who led the NCAA in home runs at Texas, batting in the leadoff spot over the weekend.
Preston, a first baseman with a smooth stroke from the left side, will be playing in his fifth NBC World Series. The tournament dates back to 1935, when Satchel Paige pitched a team from North Dakota to the title.
“Wichita is a good baseball town,” said Preston, who grew up a few miles away in Hutchinson, Kansas. “There’s not much else to do. They play games around the clock.” Preston played last year for an Alaskan team that finished 12th, and he hopes to reach the top tier with the Foresters. Playing in California this summer suited him well. He is transferring from Purdue to Loyola Marymount this fall.
Besides their success on the diamond, the Foresters had a banner season with Hugs for Cubs, an outreach program for children with cancer. They presented a check for $28,000 on Sunday to the family of 18-month-old Jeffrey Zamora, who is being treated for leukemia.
OLYMPIC JOURNEYS: S.B. beach volleyball stars Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser (featured in the July 26 Independent) took a huge step toward the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing by winning the FIVB world championship in Gstaad, Switzerland. They upset defending Olympic champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil in the semifinals and swept Russia’s Dmitri Barsouk and Igor “Bazooka” Kolodinsky in the final. The winners’ loot included $60,000, a cowbell, and a bounty of points in the Olympic qualification process. Rogers and Dalhausser will seek more FIVB rewards at Klagenfurt, Austria, this week, and then return stateside for the Manhattan Beach Open, August 10-12. : Water polo standout Kami Craig of Santa Barbara punched her ticket to Beijing as the U.S. women’s team claimed the Pan American Games gold medal at Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. men also qualified for the Olympics by winning gold under the direction of head coach Terry SchroeÂ-der, a San Marcos High graduate. : Another San Marcos grad competing in the Pan American Games was Brook Billings with the U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team. The team took the silver medal, losing to top-ranked Brazil in the final, and moved up to fifth in the world rankings.