The lazy days of summer? Not happening this August in Santa Barbara. While athletes are getting ready to compete in the Santa Barbara Triathlon after having missed out last year because of the pandemic; spectators have returned to the polo fields, where the action-packed Pacific Coast Open is being played; “Soccer Heaven” is open at UCSB; and high school stadiums are about to open for the first fall football season since 2019.
Let’s start this report with baseball and the Santa Barbara Foresters. If anything could be described as “business as usual,” it’s that the Foresters lassoed Lonestar, Texas, 14-2, last Saturday to win the championship of the 87th National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series. It was Santa Barbara’s ninth NBC title — an unrivaled record — including two back-to-back successes, 2011-12 and now 2020-21.
The Foresters also made history by winning the first tournament in Wichita’s new Riverfront Stadium after concluding the 2018 World Series with a victory at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium before it was torn down.
Coach Bill Pintard’s team finished this summer with 21 consecutive wins after a slower-than-usual 14-7 start. Among their standouts were Oklahoma pitcher Ben Abram and outfielder Kendall Pettis. Their youngest player was Max McGwire, an Oklahoma-bound first baseman and son of slugger Mark McGwire.
Pintard said there was a pivotal moment in the second NBC game when he brought a newcomer, relief pitcher Matt Magre of Arkansas, to the mound with the score tied 4-4 against the Wichita Sluggers: “I said, ‘Son, the bases are loaded with nobody out, and they got a guy who can hit the ball into the river. Welcome to the Foresters. Go get ’em.’” He did, and Santa Barbara won, 9-4.
The NBC also recognized the Foresters by naming New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil as the recipient of its 2021 Graduate of the Year Award. McNeil, a Goleta native who attended Nipomo High and Long Beach State, batted .345 for the Foresters during their NBC title run in 2011.
Another baseball milestone was set last Saturday by former Santa Barbara City College pitcher Tyler Gilbert. The rookie southpaw with the Arizona Diamondbacks threw a no-hitter in his first start, a 7-0 win over the San Diego Padres, only the second time in modern major-league history a pitcher made his debut with a no-hitter. Gilbert came to SBCC from northern California and made 27 starts in 2013 and 2014, compiling a 3.11 ERA.
Tri Tradition: The Santa Barbara Triathlon was suspended in 2018 because of the Montecito debris flow disaster and again last year because of COVID. Now one of the oldest triathlons in the country is ready for its 40th anniversary of swimming, biking, and running on Saturday, August 28.
“It’s a big part of my life in Santa Barbara,” said Dawn Schroeder, who was a UCSB swimmer when she did her first triathlon here and now is entering the 55-59 age group. “For many of us, it’s on a par with Fiesta. You get in shape and push your body through every summer.”
She remembered doing the sprint triathlon with Sue Peterson when both were very pregnant. They were carrying Grant Schroeder, who became a water polo player and triathlete at UC Berkeley, and Lakey Peterson, one of the world’s best surfers.
Joe Coito, who expertly organized the triathlon for a quarter of a century, has moved out of town and turned the project over to the wife-husband team of Elizabeth and Gerry Rodrigues. They have been consulting Coito regularly with only a few months to prepare for this year’s event.
They chose to start out by holding all the divisions (long course, sprint course, relays, family race, swim-bike and bike-run) on the same day. Because only so many bikes can be contained in the transition area at East Beach, there is a limit of 1,000 entries.
“We just sold out,” Elizabeth Rodrigues said last week. “The athletes want to get back out there. Next year, we plan to go back to two days.”
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Back in the Saddle: In its 110th year, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club managed to stage the highlight of its polo season, the Pacific Coast Open, last summer. But there was no public audience to watch Klentner Ranch claim the towering silver-and-gold trophy with a 9-8 victory over Santa Clara.
High-goal polo has come roaring back in 2021, and fans are filling the seats and fieldside tents, amazed at the speed with which beautiful, well-trained horses chase a little white ball from one end of a 300-yard field to another.
Klentner Ranch is trying to continue a streak it started last year. The four-man team, helmed by the father-son combo of Justin and Jake Klentner, is undefeated this summer, winning the 16-goal Robert Skene Trophy and USPA Silver Cup tournaments.
“This one’s for the triple crown,” Jesse Bray said as the PCO got underway Sunday. The 28-year-old Bray, a rising American star, and Argentine whiz Santiago Toccalino combined for 11 goals in Klentner’s 13-11 victory over Lucchese. In other first-round matches, BenSoleimani.com outscored Farmers and Merchants Bank, 12-8, and Antelope edged Santa Clara, 8-7.
Farmers and Merchants has the ultimate father-son team: 67-year-old Daniel Walker and son Matt, 44, and Lucas Criado, 48, and son Lucitas, 18. “If we win, it would be a historical moment in high-goal polo,” said the elder Walker, who’s actually the third in a four-generation polo-playing family.
Two more rounds, slated Friday — including a do-or-die FMB-Lucchese matchup — and Sunday will determine the semifinalists, and the grand finale is Sunday, August 29. For information, visit sbpolo.com.
Back on the Pitch: The year 2020 was going to be a big one for soccer at Harder Stadium, but the entire season and a UCSB-hosted men’s College Cup were casualties of COVID. The Gauchos are ready to start all over again with the women’s team hosting Iowa State this week (Thu., Aug. 19) and the men playing home games against Westmont College on Saturday, San Diego on Thursday (Aug. 26) and Cal on Sunday (Aug. 29), all at 7 p.m.
Friday Night Lights: After a shortened season in the spring with restricted attendance, prep football is back for a full fall schedule. Santa Barbara High and San Marcos both kick off at home Friday night (Aug. 20), the Dons against Saugus and the Royals against Morro Bay. Other county teams opening Friday are Santa Ynez at Nipomo, Lompoc hosting Paso Robles, and Cabrillo at Nordhoff.
Next Friday (Aug. 27), the lineup is: Santa Barbara at Thousand Oaks, San Marcos at Santa Maria, Dos Pueblos at Nordhoff, Oxnard at Bishop Diego (at SBCC), Carpinteria at Morro Bay, Fillmore at Santa Ynez, Lompoc at Righetti, and Nipomo at Cabrillo. All games start at 7 p.m.