By Jim Buckley
In the first three games in the young season, the Foresters have already showed off a powerful offense (37 runs in that span). Their pitching staff is, as always, a thing of beauty (allowing only four runs while striking out 42 so far, and starter Caleb Sloan pitched four perfect innings Friday). On Friday night, the team showed off its defense and speed while routing the SoCal Halos 9–0.
The best Web Gem among many was an inning-ending play in the sixth. A long drive by the Halos’ Rudy Aguilar soared beyond RF Ryan Holgate. But Holgate chased the ball down, lasered a throw to cutoff man Jace Jung at second base, who fired a bee-bee to Noah Cardenes at home. As manager Bill Pintard said, “that guy was out from here to Goleta.”
“The number-one story for me was the defense,” he added. “Our D is really top-notch. We played another errorless ballgame. On that play we made at home, that was an example of perfect execution.”
The Foresters stole three bases, but really showed their speed with several examples of heads-up baserunning, such as LF Branden Boissierie advancing from second to third on a popup to second base. Santa Barbara’s dangerous runners probably helped wild pitches that allowed a pair of runs to score.
As for hitting, there was plenty of that as well. DH Christian Encarnacion (No. 17, pictured) continued to crush the ball.
“We knew Christian had power,” said Pintard. “In fact, we moved our roster around to get him here. He had 32 homers in the last season-and-a-half. He can hit home runs, and we love it. He should have had two tonight.”
Should have? Well, yes. After blasting a two-run shot in the fourth, Encarnacion blasted a ball that to the eyes of everyone in the park cleared the left-field fence. However, the four eyes that did not see it belonged to the umpires, who ruled it a ground-rule double.
Other hitting feats of note were the pair of hits and walks for Cardenes, who has now reached base in 10 of his 12 plate appearances this season. Jung scored three runs and drove one in while putting together four quality at-bats. SS Matthew McLain continued his hot hitting at the top of the lineup with two more doubles.
“Our lineup is really potent,” said a smiling Pintard. “In tonight’s starting lineup, eight of the nine guys can hit homers. We have power, we have speed, we have defense, we have pitching. It’s a complete ballclub right now and we’re only going to get better.”
Santa Barbara will celebrate the nation’s birthday Saturday with the National Pastime, facing the Bakersfield Blaze at 4:30 p.m. Make sure and tune in for the offensive fireworks via KCSB.org/sports.