The Santa Barbara Foresters’ head coach, Bill Pintard, needed infielders, and SBCC’s Tommy Holguin needed at-bats. It turned into a match made in heaven over the first three games of the Foresters’ season: Holguin racked up seven hits in 11 at bats (.636 batting average) over the weekend and was virtually flawless in the field to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Holguin of his red-hot start this summer. “At the end of this past season, I was really feeling my swing, and it kind of just carried over.”
After a productive career at Santa Barbara High, Holguin lacked options as far as college baseball was concerned and ended up at SBCC, where he hit .283 in his freshman season. As a Santa Barbara resident, Holguin — who’s completing a rare trifecta playing for Santa Barbara High, SBCC, and now the Foresters — is well aware of the Foresters’ legacy of national championship success.
“I came to a couple games when I was a kid, and just hearing about the Foresters growing up, you know it was a big deal for the City of Santa Barbara,” Holguin said. “It’s pretty cool to play for these guys now. It’s my time.”
Holguin isn’t the only SBCC player to get an early season shot with the Foresters. Also on the team is catcher Benjamin Martz. Martz, who will move on to UCSB next season, knocked in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 10th inning in the Foresters’ 4-3 victory over Conejo Oaks on Sunday.
“It’s nice I have Ben [Martz] here with me, and we’ve got a good little vibe together, you know, playing on our home field,” Holguin said. “We’re just looking forward to keep playing and keep doing what we’re doing.”
For Pintard, Holguin’s production has been a welcome development, especially for a team that is low on numbers in the infield early in the season. “We just brought him in to fill in, but he’s going to stay around for a while,” Pintard said. “He grew up in a baseball family. He’s a baseball player, and he knows the game.”
Heavy rain made a mess of Pershing Park and wiped out a significant chunk of SBCC’s non-conference schedule this season. Head Coach Jeff Walker and the rest of the SBCC coaching staff counts on those early season games to evaluate what they have from a personnel standpoint.
The Vaqueros were 5-7 in the Western State Conference (WSC) on March 29 before reeling off eight straight conference wins to secure their ninth straight trip to the Southern Cal Regional. SBCC is the only Southern California program to make the playoffs in each of the last nine years. During that WSC winning streak, Holguin began batting in the two hole and helped solidify the Vaqueros’ lineup, including a critical walk-off single in a 6-5 win over Allan Hancock.
“He got hot during conference and had a couple of walk off-hits, including a big one against Hancock that gave him confidence moving forward,” said Walker of Holguin. “We won eight straight conference games, which is unheard of in our league to tie for the conference title.”
In addition to his production at the plate, Holguin played multiple positions along the infield for SBCC on his way to earning first-team All-WSC North honors. Despite his diminutive size (listed at 5′8″), Holguin has the tools to be a big piece for any ball club.
“He’s got toughness. He comes from a baseball family, and he’s a baseball guy that just loves to play the game,” Walker said. “Guys that work hard and commit to the school and commit to the program are the guys who end up going where they want versus the guys that want everything quickly.”
ALL-AMERICAN HOPE: Hope Benderrallied in the seventh and final event of the heptathlon to secure her goal of achieving first team All-America status at the NCAA Division 1 outdoor track-and-field championships. The UCSB senior won the 800-meter run in a time of 2:10.10, climbing to fourth place in the final standings with a score of 5,955 points, a personal best.
It capped an emotional week for Bender, who was preparing to leave for the meet in Austin, Texas, when her boyfriend, Tommy Jew, broke his leg during UCSB’s last baseball game at the NCAA Stanford regional.
“It was hard not being there,” she said. “But since he got the surgery so quickly, he was already recovering when I really had to start to focus.”
Bender’s focus was razor-sharp at the conclusion of the first day of the heptathlon as she recorded a blazing time of 23.63 seconds in the 200 meters, a new school record and the second-fastest time in the competition. She finished the day in seventh place, and that’s where she stood Saturday after the long jump and the javelin throw, until she unleashed her speed again in the two-lap 800. Twenty-four women competed in the heptathlon.
Bender topped her previous best of 5,940 points, but Olympic athlete Barbara Nwaba’s 2012 score of 5,986 still stands as the UCSB record. Bender said she will try to hit the 6,000 mark next month at the U.S.A. Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
As for Jew, the outfielder was one of 10 Gaucho players selected in the major-league baseball draft. He was taken in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. The first to go were pitchers Chris Lincoln (San Diego) and Ben Brecht (Tampa Bay), both in the fifth round, and catcher Eric Yang (Cincinnati) in the seventh round.
FINAL FLING: Stamatia Scarvelis, a three-time state shot put champion at Dos Pueblos High, concluded her college career as a Tennessee Volunteer by placing eighth in the women’s hammer throw at the NCAA championships. Her mark was 67.59 meters (221′9″), five feet short of her school-record toss of 69.10.
ON THE TRAIL: Santa Barbara distance runner Dani Moreno was the second American finisher in the World Trail Championships, a challenging 44-kilometer race in the mountains surrounding Mirada do Corvo, Portugal. She was 27th overall in a time of 4:41:20. Moreno, 26, was the youngest of the four women on the U.S. Trail Team.