What was the hottest thing in Wichita on Thursday? That’s a tough call.
–Was it Foresters starting pitcher Connor Mayes, who struck out 10 and walked none in six shutout innings?
–Was it Foresters hitters, who racked up 14 hits, including two homers, and scored 11 runs?
–Or was it just the weather, which reached a sultry 99 degrees—and well over 100 on the artificial turf field—as the game went on?
The answer was probably . . . the entire Foresters team. They rolled to their fourth win in a row at the NBC World Series, an 11-10 quarterfinal victory over the Northwest (WA) Honkers that ended on the mercy rule after six innings. It was the third time at this World Series that the Foresters ended a game early using the tournament’s run-scoring rules.
For the 14th season in a row, the Foresters will play in the final four at the 82-year-old event. Their semifinal appearance will be Friday at 7:30 PDT against the San Diego Force, who won its quarterfinal.
In what was Mayes’s final appearance for the Foresters (the University of Texas has asked that Mayes not start any further games), the righthander was sizzling. His six shutout innings extended his scoreless streak to 24 innings and his 10 strikeouts were a season high for him.
“Only one of the seven hits he gave up was hit hard, and four of them were infield singles off the turf,” said manager Bill Pintard. “He was 93 mph on the first pitch of the game and 93 mph on his ninety-ninth pitch, a totally dominating performance. Connor has been our big-game stopper this summer. He’s made such tremendous strides since he started with us. [Pitching coach ] Tony Coulgoule deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s done with Connor and with Kyle Johnston.”
First baseman Hunter Williams gave Mayes all he needed early, cracking his seventh homer of the summer in the first inning for a 2-0 lead.
“When I got to the yard, I could feel the heat,” added Pintard. “It was probably 120 on the turf, you could see the heat coming off the ground. And the wind was blowing out to left. I said, we’re going to hit some home runs today. Williams’ shot was one of the longest balls I’ve ever seen a Forester hit. It rivals a 2008 shot that Kevin Keyes hit about 470 feet.”
Santa Barbara added three more in the third. With runners at first and second, Bret Boswell lined a single to right to score Matt Henderson. Williams followed with an RBI single. Lex Kaplan sent Boswell home with a long, high single that whanged off the centerfield wall. The inning could have been worse for the Honkers, but they doubled Kaplan off second on a line drive to center by Dylan Paul.
Speaking of hot, Boswell continued his torrid hitting by sending a soaring homer to centerfield to lead off the fifth and give the Foresters a 7-0 lead. It was the Texas third baseman’s 10th homer of the season, tied for third-most in Foresters history. Boswell also now has 10 RBI in Wichita.
The Foresters clinched their mercy-rule win with a four-run sixth. Four of the first five hitters for Santa Barbara came in to score, two on RBI by Boswell and Williams, giving the latter four RBI on the day. In all, the Foresters’ 3-4-5 hitters reached base 11 of 12 times, scored six times, and drove in eight runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, Mayes closed out the Honkers, fittingly striking out the final batter with the bases loaded.
Mayes will be a spectator from now on, but he’ll relax knowing how much he has contributed all summer.
“I absolutely got better as a pitcher,” he said about his Santa Barbara summer “I had three goals, which were to dominate inside with the fastball, get a better slider, and to stay away from the walks. I’ve hit all of those goals. And now we’re looking forward to taking care of business tomorrow.”
With a rested bullpen and a team average above .360, the Foresters head to Friday’s semifinal having outscored Wichita opponents 37-4. The opponent and game time for the semifinal were not determined until after press time. Check sbforesters.org for updates.