[Pictured: The No-No Club: Conner Woods, Garret Crochet, James Notary, Chase Wallace, Jackson Wolf, Caleb Sloan]
By Patrick Hunter
San Luis Blues DH Slade Heggen probably didn’t know he was about to be part of history. Truth be told, neither did most of the Foresters fans watching Saturday’s game . . . nor did most of the Foresters players. But anyone keeping a scorecard knew that if Heggen was retired, the Foresters would have the third no-hitter of their storied history. Santa Barbara’s Chase Wallace buried a fastball past Heggen and the deed was done: Six Santa Barbara pitchers piled up zeroes to record a 5-0 no-no, the team’s third ever . . . and all coming against the Blues. The victory ran Santa Barbara’s season-opening win streak to eight.
The gem was highlighted by starter Caleb Sloan’s four innings with eight strikeouts. Sloan and Blues’ pitcher Cole Tucker battled it out through the first five innings, with both pitchers showing masterful control. Sloan sliced through the Blues’ lineup, displaying his power by blowing through batter after batter with his fastball. “I put in a lot of work this week to make sure that I was ready to go this weekend,” explained Sloan, still fired up after the win.
While Sloan wowed the audience with his speed and command, the night was far from a one-man show. The bullpen and offense came alive late in the game. Garrett Crochet, Conner Woods, Jackson Wolf, James Notary, and Chase Wallace each pitched an inning in relief for the ’Sters, and none of them ceded an inch. “Having a bullpen behind me that was that incredible is fantastic.” Sloan explained. “When I got pulled, I knew we were going to win the game, because I knew I had those guys behind me that were going to come out and throw strikes.
Sloan’s confidence was well-placed, as the pitching staff threw a whopping 91 strikes among 141 pitches, preventing San Luis Obispo to build any momentum throughout the game. The pressure of those strikes kept the batters on their heels, and allowed the ‘Sters offense to find their rhythm.
Of course, such great pitching needs offensive support and Santa Barbara finally got to Tucker in the fifth. Utah Jones cracked a two-run homer for the first runs of the fast-paced game. Jones had seen Tucker once already and on his second time up, rocked a high fastball down the right field line, breaking the scoreless tie and exposing the chinks in Tucker’s armor.
After Blues’ relief pitcher Joshua Andrews walked three consecutive batters in the sixth, Sters second baseman Ryan Cash knocked a double into shallow left-center, scoring two more. Third baseman Michael Neustifter knocked in another run with a double to complete the scoring.
In what was their toughest pitching test of the season, the ‘Sters seemed much more comfortable facing Tucker the second time around, and were able to put together some good at-bats to help the team pull away midway through the game. “I just think our approach got better,” said Jones. “Honestly, hitting is contagious, so I feel like once a couple people got it rolling, the whole team started catching on.”As has been the case for Santa Barbara this season, a single swing seemed to ignite a fire in the batting lineup.
“If we can pitch good, if we can hit good, we will have a chance to win every game,” Jones continued, and that’s been true so far in the young season. The ‘Sters have played every game this season with suffocating defense and a high-octane offense, and it has landed them atop the California Coastal League standings.
Catch the ‘Sters in action on Sunday, Father’s Day, where they will look to claim their second straight against the Blues, and ninth straight overall. First pitch is at 2 pm at Pershin Park.