The Santa Barbara Foresters celebrated some happy returns along with their 2018 National Baseball Congress championship on Friday.
Veterans Ryan Cash and Conner Woods helped carry the championship banner onto the Pershing Park diamond before carrying the Foresters to a 1-0, Opening Day victory over the San Diego Waves.
“Last summer was great — it was great to end it with a national championship,” said Cash, a third baseman and third-year Forester whose sacrifice fly in the eighth inning scored Tommy Holguin with the winning run. “I just wanted to come back and hopefully go back-to-back with the ‘Sters.”
Woods, one of the team’s top relief pitchers last year, earned the save on Friday by retiring San Diego in order during the ninth inning.
“It’s always fun just coming out and playing ball with all these guys, all this great talent,” he said. “I had a great time last summer. I love the area, and I love that we’re a really good team.”
Cash came to the plate after Holguin’s line-drive single to right field and Brett Borgogno’s bunt single put runners on first and third bases.
“He comes up to me and goes, ‘You want me to take one so you can steal?'” Foresters manager Bill Pintard said. “But I said, ‘Screw it … If it’s there, hit it.'”
Cash wound up driving an outside fastball to right field, allowing Holguin to tag up and score the game’s only run.
“Cash is money, man — he did that in Wichita for us, too,” Pintard said, referring to last year’s NBC World Series. “He’s done it for years.”
He batted .347 last year, leading the Foresters to their seventh national title.
“Last year I had a bunch of at bats to kind of push in some go-ahead runs, some winning runs, so I’m comfortable with that situation,” he said. “You don’t try to do too much. You get to be who you are, and that’s what Bill trusts you to do.”
Cash, who started 60 games in two seasons for Oklahoma State, sat out this spring as a redshirt at Oral Roberts.
“This was actually was my first meaningful game since that championship in Wichita,” he said. “Honestly, what kept me going this year was just knowing that I was getting to come out here and get to play again.
“Anytime you get to step out here and play it’s meaningful.”
Woods, who just finished his sophomore season at UNLV, was the last of five Forester pitchers who combined for Friday’s five-hit shutout.
“I knew I was going to be the ninth-inning guy today but I didn’t know it was going to be this close,” Woods said. “I’m glad to step up.
“I was just locating my fastball, working off of that. That seems to be where my success comes from, locating the fastball.”
Cash enjoyed the pregame ceremony as much as the post-season celebration.
“It’s always awesome, seeing the crowd and getting a reception like that,” he said. “It’s awesome knowing how many people make this happen so we can win one for them.
“It’s tough to beat, coming out here playing for Bill. It’s just a great organization, great coaches, great people, and it’s always a great team, too.”