By Jim Buckley (Photo from Pershing by Kylie Koeper)
Big bats and a big arm led the Foresters to an 8-0 victory in the first game of the NBC World Series in Wichita. Santa Barbara won in seven innings over the Denver Cougars in a game ended via the “mercy rule.” Starter Nick Nastrini threw six one-hit innings and struck out an incredible 11 batters. He was backed by a powerhouse offense that had four homers in the game, a season high for the ’Sters.
Given a comfortable lead by all the longballs, Nastrini cruised. No one hit the ball hard against him, and he allowed only a walk and a hit, and that hit did not come until the sixth. At one point he struck out seven in a row before giving up that lone knock, a baserunner who was quickly erased by a fine double play. As he left the field, he got a bear hug of thanks from manager Bill Pintard.
Meanwhile, a procession of homers gave the Foresters most of their runs.
It was a bit of déjà vu to start the game, as Matthew McLain hit the second pitch he saw over the centerfield fence. It was the third time this summer the shortstop had opened the game with a longball, and it was also his sixth overall for 2020.
Then, after a walk to 2B Jace Jung, DH Christian Encarnacion nearly matched McLain on a long drive to right-center, but ended up with a ground-rule double. A sac fly by Branden Boissierie made it 2-0. A wild pitch allowed Encarnacion to score a few pitches later and Nastrini took the mound with a 3-0 lead.
In the fourth, 3B Sean McLain surpassed his brother with a two-run homer that came with added excitement since it was an inside-the-park version after his line drive bounced high over the centerfielder’s head on the springy artificial turf.
Encarnacion made it 6-0 with a solo shot in the fifth, his tenth of the season—one short of tying the Foresters’ wood-bat single-season record (held by 2007’s Rebel Ridling). Encarnacion’s feat is all the more impressive in that he has taken about half as many games to reach double digits.
Inspired by all these round-trippers, CF Casey Dykstra hit a ball over the wall in the left-field corner for his first Foresters homer, scoring Sean McLain ahead of him.
After Nastrini left, newcomer Alex Boshers, late of the Santa Maria Pea Soup and one of four players added by manager Bill Pintard to the Wichita roster, got a double play behind him as well in his one inning of one-hit work. With Santa Barbara up by eight runs after seven, the game was called in the Foresters’ favor.
Next up will be the Liberal BeeJays, a perennial Wichita contender and a longtime foe of the Foresters. The game will be Thursday August 6; as we type this, the game time had not yet been determined. The games can be watched live on the NBC World Series YouTube channel; a link is on the Foresters’ home page.