A home run by Willie Barcena and a solid pitching performance by professional arm Konner Arnold lifted the Southern California Halos to an 8-5 victory over the previously unbeaten Santa Barbara Foresters on Sunday afternoon at Pershing Park.
Barcena’s first homer of the season, a two-run shot, highlighted a four-run seventh inning for the Halos, which gave them the lead for good. When Southern California took the lead in the seventh, it was the first time Santa Barbara (4-1) trailed in its first five games of the summer season.
Arnold, whose minor league season was canceled because of Covid-19, allowed one earned run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. The right-hander actually gave up four runs, but the three he surrendered in the fifth inning were unearned after the Halos committed a two-out error. At the time, it gave the Foresters a 4-1 lead.
“Their guy pitched really well,” Santa Barbara manager Bill Pintard said. “He had us off-balance. He mixed (his pitches) really well. He’s a professional pitcher in independent ball, and he had us a little offstride.”
The Foresters had outscored their opponents, 72-6, over their first four games — which included a 35-2 schallacking of the Bakersfield Braves on Saturday at Pershing. Pintard rested some of his starters on Sunday, and the Halos took full advantage of Santa Barbara’s lack of offensive firepower that it had displayed over its first four contests.
“We mixed up our lineup a little bit today,” Pintard said. “For some of them, it was the first time they had started. But give (the Halos) credit. They made plays.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They played really well. They made plays when they had to, and they made pitches when they had to.”
As was the case for the first four games, and what will be the case for the remainder of the Foresters’ home schedule — which runs through mid August — no fans were allowed in to watch Sunday’s game because of COVID-19 protocols.
It is a shame that Santa Barbara-area baseball fans won’t be allowed to enter the ballpark for this summer’s team, because the Foresters have what might be the best pool of talent the organization — which has won seven National Baseball Congress World Series titles — has ever had.
With the prestigious Cape Cod League and other elite summer collegiate leagues throughout the country shut down because of the coronavirus, Pintard has been able to lasso a number of talented players who would have been off to one of the other leagues — most notably, the Cape Cod League.
It’s a group that includes five members of the UCLA team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation when the season came to an abrupt halt in early March.
“I think, offensively, yes, this might be the best group of talent we’ve ever had,” Pintard said. “Top to bottom, yes, I believe it is the best. We have eight guys out of nine in our lineup who are capable of hitting home runs.
“They’re fast. Their defense is really good, and our pitching is just outstanding. We’ve been playing really clean on the field, but today we didn’t.”