By Jim Buckley (photo by Kylie Koeper at Pershing)
Perhaps there is something about even-numbered years. With a 5-1 win over the Cheney Diamond Dawgs on Saturday, the 2020 Foresters now have a chance to do what the ’Sters did evenly in ’06, ’08, ’12, ’14, ’16, and ’18 (with an ’11 thrown in there for spice)—play for the NBC World Series national championship. In winning their third game in a row at Wichita, the ’Sters relied on a tried-and-true formula: shutdown pitching, opportunistic and clutch hitting, and flawless defense. They play Monday night for the title—opponent TBD, first pitch at 4 pm Santa Barbara time.
On the pitching side Saturday, starter Kyle Luckham continued the Foresters’ excellent tournament, retiring the Dawgs in order for three innings. In the fourth, the Dawgs did get the first hit off Foresters’ pitching in 12 innings, but that runner was erased trying to steal on a great throw by C Noah Cardenas. Luckham pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits. When he departed in the sixth with a runner on first, Caden Monke, a 2019 Forester summoned to Wichita, threw one pitch and Cardenas cut down the runner trying to steal. Monke pitched a scoreless seventh and Sean Mullen mowed down the Dawgs in the eighth, an inning that ended with a nice 5-3 double play. Peyton Pallette brought his 97 mph fastball to the ninth; he gave up a run to break the scoreless inning streak at 24, but closed things out with the team’s sixth strikeout.
While backing Luckham & Co. on offense, Santa Barbara wasted no time doing what they do so well—disrupting opponents. With one out in the first, 2B Jace Jung blasted a double off the right-field wall. When an ensuing pitch slightly eluded the catcher, Jung raced to third. The catcher’s throw chasing him sailed into left and Jung sailed home.
Santa Barbara turned another mistake by the Dawgs into another run in the second. After Sean McLain walked, he went to second on a wild pitch. CF Casey Dykstra (pictured) then banged a two-out single to center to make it 2-0. It was the first of Dykstra’s three hits on the day.
In the fourth, a leadoff walk to Cardenas and a double to right by Ryan Holgate put runners on second and third with no out. Another wild pitch brought Cardenas home with the ’Sters third run. Dykstra then ripped a ball over the first base bag that ended up in the corner for an RBI triple—4-0, Foresters.
After Ryan Holgate walked and was balked to second, Sean McLain put down a bunt to advance Holgate to third. Dykstra, that man again, lofted a two-out RBI to right to make it 5-0.
Heading into the championship game, the Foresters have allowed only five hits in 25 innings, while outscoring opponents 21-1. The opponent a for Monday’s Championship Game—which is double elimination—will not be known until Sunday night, so watch this space and our Facebook and Twitter feeds for the latest info.