by Nate Loop
Pitching and defense can win a lot of ballgames in this sport. The excellence of the Foresters pitching staff takes the pressure off the sometimes inconsistent hitting showcased by the team. The Foresters don’t often need much, and won the game today 2-0 against the Neptune Beach Pearl thanks to some excellent pitching by the Foresters staff.
Ian McCarthy got the start atop the mound for the Foresters today. He has brought dominant stuff to the mound all season, as he brought with him to the game a 3-0 record, a team high 21 innings pitched, and a microscopic 0.43 ERA.
The first inning was a tease for the fans, as a close call robbed the crowd of seeing one of the more breathtaking plays in sports; a steal of home.
Pearl Pitcher Jake Popovich should have already had his team out of the inning, as he bumbled an easy pop up from Cal Vogelsang that drifted into foul territory. Taylor Stell, not yet marooned on third base, took advantage of the pitchers distraction, and broke for home on the next pitch, Jackie Robinson style.
However, the home plate umpire called him out, although the majority of the home crowd, including manager Bill Pintard, had him safe.
Vogelsang, who had a front row seat in the batter’s box to the previous innings injustice, took it upon himself to get revenge, crushing a pitch into the net above the left field fence for a solo home run. The home run was the first for the Foresters since Arby Fields knocked one out in Las Vegas, and today it meant an early 1-0 lead for the team in this game.
In the words of the great Warren Spahn, “Hitting is all about timing. Pitching is all about upsetting timing.” Ian McCarthy is the pitching embodiment of this ethos. He does not cut an especially imposing figure on the mound, nor does he blow anyone away with blazing speed.
What McCarthy does have is the control of and accuracy of a Navy SEAL sniper, combined with an array of pitches that move around and keep hitters off balance. His cutter runs in like a straight fastball, but moves at the last second, just ducking away from the sweet spot of the wooden bat, or in many cases slipping past the bat altogether.
McCarthy retired the first 14 batters he faced, the bats silenced into lazy flyouts and limp grounders before Blake Bass broke through rather noisily with a triple in the top of the fifth inning.
The ‘Sters broke through for another run in the third inning, courtesy of a double by Stell that scored the speedy Richy Pedroza from first base.
The 2-0 advantage would be all the Foresters needed, as the pitching of the ‘Sters maintained its characteristic excellence, even after McCarthy left the ballgame after six innings of stellar work, in which he allowed two hits and struck out three.
Andrew Vasquez came in and threw a perfect inning, followed by an inning of work from Willie Kuhl, who’s only blemish was a walk allowed. Hunter Lemke, who has been just as dominant as McCarthy has in his own role as closer, came in and got the final three outs, two by strikeout.
So the four horsemen that came out of the ‘Sters apocalyptic pitching stable combined for a two hit shutout, facing just 29 batters on the day (there were two hits and a walk, but one of those hits was erased by a slick 5-4-3 double play in the sixth inning).
The Foresters will look to make it a two-fer against the Pearl tomorrow afternoon, with the game starting at 5:10 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.