Then on Sunday it was on to league play. The California Coastal Collegiate League, formerly known as the Central Coast Premiere League, features five semi-pro squads. Competing for the CCCL title and a berth in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita are the three-time defending champion Foresters, last year's runners-up the San Luis Blues, the often-tough Fresno Royals, our neighbors up the coast the Santa Maria Stars, and the Southern California Condors, based in Moorpark. The Condors, who replace the Tri-City Tigers in the CCCL this year, came to Santa Barbara's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium Sunday, fresh from taking 2 of 3 from the Stars.
Game one was a tale of two pitchers, as Santa Barbara's Brian Noyes pitched a three-hit shutout in the seven-inning contest, but Condor player-manager John Secrist fared somewhat more poorly. He managed to fool the Foresters with his slow knuckler at first, giving up one run on one hit in the first three innings, but as the home team's batters faced him a second time, they began to figure him out. Santa Barbara's Mark Wiff started things off with a solo homer in the fourth, and Tyler Ferrer had a two-run dinger in the fifth. With an additional run in each of those innings, the 'Sters had the game in hand at 6-0 entering the bottom of the sixth. Secrist retired the first two batters, and needed only one more to finish his work for the day, when he lost his control. He hit Ryan Moskau and Brooks Morris back-to-back, and Santa Barbara catcher Casey Cloud took one for the team to load the bases. The situation bordered on farce as Aaron Gordinier was also hit, but denied first base by the home plate umpire when he made no effort to get out of the way of the pitch. But Secrist plunked him in earnest on a subsequent pitch, driving in a run. That brought up the top of the order, and Gaby Halcovich and Ferrer promptly tagged the beleaguered hurler for back to back singles, driving in three runs between them. Secrist was so disgusted that he made no effort to prevent Halcovich from stealing third after the ball was returned to the mound on Ferrer's single. Mercifully, Secrist was able to get Wiff to ground out to second to end the inning and register a hard-fought complete game in the 10-0 defeat.
The nightcap started out as a see-saw battle, with the 'Sters going up 1-0 on Ferrer's RBI single in the first, the Condors taking a 2-1 lead after squeezing two runs out of one hit in the second, only to have the Foresters go back up 3-2 in the bottom of the stanza on a hit and an error. SoCal tied it up in the third when Joe Kemper, one of three Condors to play for the UCSB Gauchos this spring, walked, went to third on C.J. Rhea's single, and scored on a wild pitch by Forester starter Doug Nichol. Nichol walked Shad Knighton--another Gaucho--and threw another wild pitch to put runners on second and third, but got Matt Klein to fly out to end the inning. Santa Barbara went up 5-3 in the bottom of the third, then pulled away when Morgan Ensberg's two-run homer made it 7-4 in the fourth, and capped the victory with a three-run fifth to prevail 10-4 and end their opening weekend 4-1.
Other CCCL action this week saw San Luis Obispo defeat Santa Maria 3-1, then take two of three from Fresno, so the league standings have Santa Barbara on top at 2-0, followed by the Blues percentage points back at 3-1. Southern California at 2-3 and Fresno at 1-2 are one and a half games off the lead, with Santa Maria two games out at 1-3.
Santa Barbara has six games against Santa Maria teams this week. Their lone CCCL contest is Wednesday afternoon at Hancock Field against the Stars, and then they start a five-game series against the powerful independent Santa Maria Indians. The Indians, who went to Wichita last year by winning the NBC State Tournament, host the Foresters at Elks Field in a single game Friday night and a noon-time doubleheader Saturday. Then they travel down to Santa Barbara Sunday for their first-ever contests at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The long-awaited Indians-Foresters doubleheader begins at 12:05.
Meanwhile, our Hudson Valley Correspondent Babs O'Reilly reports that the Saugerties Dutchmen took two of three from Hudson Valley Rookie League teams this weekend, demolishing the Middletown Explorers 15-5 in a contest which saw every Dutchman in the nine-inning game drive in at least one run, before splitting a twinbill Sunday with defending HVRL champs the New Paltz Knights. Saugerties took game one 7-1, and New Paltz prevailed 5-3 in the late game, holding off a Dutchmen rally in bottom of the seventh. The 4-1 start makes Dutchmen skipper Kiko Romaguera the first rookie manager in the club's history to win his first four contests.
This week the Dutchies host two more distant opponents, as the Schenectady Blue Jays come to Cantine Field for a Thursday evening tilt, and the Otsego Macs make the trip from Cooperstown for a Sunday doubleheader.
And just a reminder, you can read the latest news from the Foresters and Dutchmen web sites at http://www.physics.ucsb.edu/people/john_whelan/baseball.html