By Jim Buckley (Photo by Sullivan Lyons in Wichita)
A no-hitter! Four Foresters pitchers combined to allow no hits and only a single walk to lead the way to another 8-0 victory, this time over the Liberal BeeJays, at the NBC World Series in Wichita. It was the second combined no-hitter in three seasons for Santa Barbara. Another eight-run outburst of offense combined with sparkling defense backed up the near-perfect pitching.
“We were clean on the field, we got clutch hits, and our pitching exceeded our expectations,” said a very pleased manager Bill Pintard.
There must be something magical about putting on the Foresters uniform. Four players did just that for the first time when they were added to the roster for Wichita by Santa Barbara and on Thursday, three of those came through big time. In his first game in a ’Sters cardinal jersey, starting pitcher Sean Johnson was literally perfect: 18 up and 18 down. He struck out seven, including the final two batters he faced, which kicked off a stunning streak of eight Ks. Another “newbie,” Coleman Huntley III, got three more Ks in a perfect inning of relief.
After Johnson and Huntley put up seven perfect innings, old ’Sters hand Peyton Pallette matched that in the eighth. Closer Elijah Trest polished off the no-hitter in the ninth, but he did walk the first batter, ending the ’Sters perfect-game hopes. (Pictured left to right are Johnson, Huntley, Trest, and Pallette.) In two games so far in Wichita, Foresters pitching has given up two hits and two walks in 16 innings, while striking out 26.
Backing up this power pitching (14 Ks in the game) was a barrage of offense. A trio of more familiar Foresters faces did factory work in the second to manufacture the game’s first run. 1B Branden Boissiere reached on an error and stole second. After C Noah Cardenas did his job by moving “Boss” up 90 feet, RF Ryan Holgate did his with a long sac fly to left.
Run No. 2 came in the third courtesy of another added player. On the first pitch he saw, centerfielder Hunter Cullen, also from Santa Maria, mashed a home run high over the right field fence for the Foresters’ second run. (The Foresters’ bench erupted with cries of “Sooouuppp!”). Boss got his own RBI in the sixth, driving in Matthew McLain, who had doubled, with two outs.
In the eighth, 2B Jace Jung got his ninth homer of the summer to make it 4-0, sailing an oppo homer to left.
Santa Barbara added four runs in the ninth when Casey Dykstra reached on an infield single and Jace Jung walked. After a double steal (including Dykstra’s third of the game), Dykstra scored on a wild pitch. DH Christian Encarnacion, the 2020 RBI leader, whacked a single into left to score Jung to make it 6-0. Boss got his third hit of the game on a double to deep left, scoring Encarnacion. Holgate then got his second RBI of the game to bring in the Boss.
And that defense Pintard mentioned? It was on display early and often. In the first, Jung and Johnson combined on a nifty 4-1, and then the pitcher made a nice play on a chopper left of the mound in the third. In the same inning, Boss scooped a low throw at first for an out. 3B Sean McLain made a one-hand grab of a bouncer that turned into the final out of the sixth. Overall, the Foresters cleanly a total of nine infield assists and the outfield had to make only two plays.
Next up, a semifinal matchup against the only other undefeated team, the Cheney Diamond Dogs from Kansas. The game will be Saturday evening; watch this space and the Foresters Facebook page and Twitter for game time posting.