By Jim Buckley in SB: The game started late, but the scoring started early. After waiting through three other games in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Foresters finally opened NBC World Series play with a 14-0 win over the Waco Sultanes in a game that ended after five innings due to the tournament mercy rule. Santa Barbara scored five runs in the second and seven in the fourth on the way to a key opening-game victory.
“We were just really ready to play,” said manager Bill Pintard, trying to lead his team to add their record of eight championships in this 87-year-old tournament. “And we fed off Justin [Eckhardt] tonight, too. He was getting through innings quickly and getting us back up there to hit.”
When the game was called, there were a lot of crooked numbers in the box score. Andrew Kachel, Seth Stephenson, and Steven Zobac (pictured) had homers, with Z’s being a three-run shot. Both Tanner O’Tremba and Dylan Campbell stole three bases each, while Josh Stinson added a pair. Another key stat was the five errors commited by the Sultanes.
It wasn’t all hitting and running. Foresters pitcher Justin Eckhardt was virtually unhittable. He retired the first 11 batters he faced, notching six strikeouts among them. The Sultanes’ first baserunner didn’t come until he fourth, and that was on a bouncer up the middle that second baseman Kachel nearly turned into an out. Eckhardt hit a batter in the fifth for the only other baserunner of the short game, and the Texas righty ended up with 8 Ks and no walks.
How did all the Foresters runs pile up? Take a deep breath…
A pair of errors by the Sultanes led to first pair of Foresters runs in the first inning. Stephenson led off by ripping a double down the left-field line. He moved to third on a fly ball hit by Campbell. After O’Tremba walked, he promptly stole second. Nate Rombach rolled a chopper to third to score Stephenson. Rombach reached when the throw short-hopped the first baseman. Speed helped again when O’Tremba led a double steal, but the throw skipped into left field to allow him to score.
The second inning was big. Kachel led things off with a huge home run to right field, his first swing of the series. Josh Stinson then smacked a one-out double to left. He clearly was in the pitcher’s head; the last of several pickoff attempts skipped into centerfield and Stinson ran all the way from second to home as the Sultanes were slow to retrieve the ball. Stephenson then smacked a long homer to left-center it was 5-0 Foresters. Campbell induced a balk to get to second, then he stole third a couple of pitches later. After O’Tremba walked, he took off for second to grab his third steal of the first two innings. As the throw headed to second, Campbell stole home and the throw got away—again—and O’Tremba ended up on third. After Rombach walked, Ryan Wrobleski made it 7-0 with a sac fly to center.
The fourth inning was huge as the Foresters padded the lead rather heavily. O’Tremba walked for the third time and headed to second on another wild pitch. Rombach promptly laced a hustle double to left center to score his teammate. Wrobleski reached on the fifth error by Waco and then Jared Thomas walked. Kachel brought Rombach in with a sac fly. Steven Zobac, who replaced left fielder Kendall Pettis, smacked a three-run homer high over the left field wall to make it 12-0. Making his Foresters debut, shortstop Blayne Jones, in for Stephenson, singled and Stinson, who had also singled, advanced to third. Stinson stole home when the Sultanes catcher tried to pick Jones off of second. Jones scored on an O’Tremba single to center.
The game was called after the top of the fifth inning due to the NBC World Series 10-run/five-inning mercy rule. The Foresters play again Saturday against the Wichita Sluggers, who lived up to their name with an 11-1 win in their own opening game. The game is scheduled to start at 6:30 pm Santa Barbara time.