by Nate Loop
All good things must come to an end, even for the Foresters. Well, most things at least. The Foresters saw their consecutive shutout innings streak snapped at a staggering 32 innings spanning four different games. The Foresters winning streak, which definitely falls under the category of a “good thing,” did not meet its demise, as the Foresters still crafted a resounding 9-2 victory over the MLB Academy Barons today.
Today’s game was a special one, with a large crowd on hand from the Encina Royale, an local housing community. They were treated to a wonderful afternoon of sunshine, throwback tunes, and fantastic Foresters baseball. The game was also sponsored by Investec, who have been longtime supporters of the ‘Sters.
The Foresters entrusted Vince Wheeland start the game and continue the scoreless innings streak, which began after the second inning of the Foresters’ 6-1 victory over the Neptune Beach Pearl on Thursday.
Wheeland looked sharp throughout his performance, as he showed excellent command over his arsenal of pitches. He racked up six consecutive strikeouts at one point, the streak spanning from the last out of the second inning to the first two outs of the fourth inning. Wheeland spent so much time painting the corners against the Barons that he might just lock up a Sherwin-Williams sponsorship.
Meanwhile, as Wheeland began his strikeout parade, the Foresters got busy busting the game wide open, gashing the Barons for five runs in the second inning.
Barons starter Matt Fitzgerald had what looked like an easy inning on hand, as he had only Nick Melino to worry about on second with two outs. At this point, Fitzgerald lost all control. He walked Taylor Stell, then hit Richy Pedroza to load the bases. Fitzgerald then walked Arby Fields and hit Austin Davidson. Bases still loaded, two runs across. Ryan O’Hearn took care of the next three runs, hitting a bases-clearing double to right center field. When the dust finally settled, the scoreboard showed a 5-0 early lead for the home team.
The Foresters added two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. With the bases loaded, Jacob Felts hit a sac fly to score Pedroza from third. The next batter, Cal Vogelsang, collected an RBI single, scoring Davidson from second base.
Taylor Stell added another run for the ‘Sters in the bottom of the fifth inning, as his sacrifice fly allowed Nick Melino to score the eighth run of the day for the ‘Sters.
The ‘Sters put up another run in the sixth inning, courtesy of O’Hearn, who was clearly not content with the havoc he created back in the second inning.
O’Hearn’s shot was a skyscraping fly ball that arched its way towards the fence in right field. Barons right fielder LeJon Baker tracked the airborne ball all the way back to the wall, and made a leaping attempt to catch it. It appeared Baker’s glove may have met the ball just as it cleared the fence, and the home fans had to wait for a moment as Baker came back down to earth. But the fans finally erupted into cheers as they saw Baker look down at his empty glove and shake his head. The blast made the score 9-0 to the ‘Sters and gave everyone in the park a McDonald’s sundae, courtesy of Sundaes on Sunday.
T.J. McGreevey pitched two solid innings in direct relief of Wheeland, who collected a win with his five-inning, six-strikeout performance.
Jose Cardona came out to pinch the eighth, and gave up the Foresters’ first runs against since Thursday. Pinch hitter Julian Barzilli sounded the death knell for the streak, crushing a two-run home run with no outs in the eighth inning. Although the hit may have finished the chapter on the scoreless innings streak, it would be a mere footnote in terms of impact on the bottom line, as Cardona and Albert Minnis closed the books on the 9-2 Foresters victory.
The Foresters now stand at 19-8 overall on the season, and 11-4 in league play. They play Tuesday on the road at Conejo before beginning Rawlings California Cup play on July 4 at UCSB.