Garrett Clarke didn’t leave his pre-game bullpen session feeling comfortable, struggling to find command of his breaking ball.
That could’ve fooled everyone on a crisp night at Pershing Park — most especially the visiting Conejo Oaks.
Clarke tossed five innings of two-hit ball, striking out three in his second start of the summer as the Santa Barbara Foresters snapped a two-game losing skid with a 2-1 victory Friday night.
“I wasn’t feeling it coming out of the bullpen, but was able to find my breaking ball after a couple of innings and it kept us in the game,” said Clarke after the Foresters moved to 3-2 in California Coastal Collegiate League play, with all three wins against the rival Oaks.
Foresters manager Bill Pintard compared Clarke to a big-league pitcher that might not be feeling his go-to pitch early in the game, but finds a way to stay in it until he finds it.
“He didn’t have his good breaking ball early, he found it later,” Pintard said. “But he has a changeup that’s pretty good, and his changeup got him through until he could find the breaking ball.”
Clarke didn’t factor into the decision, with Drake Greenwood tossing two innings of relief to move to 2-0, while Conner Woods earned his third save with a perfect ninth.
“Our pitching is our strength, it has been for 20 years,” said Pintard.
And that pitching was needed on a night when the Foresters left four runners in scoring position, an early-season woe for a team that has managed to still sport a 5-2 record.
After going down 1-0 in the top of the second, Forester designated hitter Ross Cadena launched his second home run of the season well over the left-field fence — although Cadena wasn’t convinced it was going out.
“I was sure at first, and I got halfway down to first, and I started running hard,” Cadena said.
After a pair of wasted opportunities, the Foresters were able to finally squeeze across a run in the seventh inning to take the lead. Conor McKenna opened the inning with a single, eventually swiping third base and coming home on a wild pitch.
After back-to-back losses with the tying run on third base, Pintard was pleased to see his team come out on the winning end against the Oaks — as the Foresters hit the ball harder with 10 hits, including two apiece by Cadena, McKenna and Jacob Katzfey.
“We’ve been having trouble sustaining rallies,” Pintard said. “We were earlier, but now we are in league and we’re facing good pitching. We are having trouble stringing at-bats together. Tonight though, our strikeouts were down. We talked about it before the game, we had early work. We had guys here at 1:30. We are going to work. We are going to get better. And we showed it tonight.
“And we’re getting here early (today), get some other things going.”
The Foresters are back in action at 6 p.m. today, as the Arroyo Seco Saints make their first trip north. Catch all the action on AM1290 or at newspress.com.