By Jim Buckley in Wichita
If you find a formula that works, keep working it. In Game 3 of the NBC World Series Tuesday in Wichita, the Foresters’ summer standard of shutdown pitching, stellar defense, and timely hitting worked to perfection again. Santa Barbara captured the Pool B title with an 8-1 win over the Gameday (Col.) Saints. The Foresters will play longtime their longtime Wichita archrival Seattle Studs on Thursday at 7:30 PM SB Time in the quarterfinals.
“We’re playing clean baseball,” said manager Bill Pintard. “The pitching has been great, our defense has been key, and the bats are really coming around.”
Four Foresters had two hits in the game: Nick Bellafronto, Christian Franklin, Blake Hall, and Zach Presno.
“We also had great situational hitting,” added Pintard, who noted that DH Connor McKenna had two RBI without a hit.”
A thunderstorm warning delayed the start of the game, but once things were underway, Santa Barbara got on the board first when Franklin singled to left to drive in Bellafronto, who had doubled with one out. Then Hall bounced a seeing-eye single through the left side to score Franklin, who had stolen second.
Starting pitcher Brooks Fuller and the usual parade of 90-throwing bullpen Sters foiled the Saints throughout. The defense chimed in early and often as well. In the second, Presno picked off a runner on third; he later cut down a would-be basestealer.
In the third, SS Tevin Tucker added another gem to his summer of spectacular play, diving to his left up the middle and then bouncing up to throw out Jesse Norwood.
“We continue to be amazed and just look at each other when he makes those plays,” said Pintard.
The Foresters put runners on the corners with one out in the third. After Zach Presno reached on a error by the centerfielder, Blake Hall moved to the corner with a single through the right side. A double by 1B Jacob Katzfey scored Presno. An error by the rightfielder on the relay let Hall come across to make it 4-0. A sac fly center by Connor McKenna scored the Foresters fifth run, Katzfey having reached third on the errors.
Franklin was plunked with a pitch to open the Foresters. After a double by Presno, Hall rolled a ball to short. The throw home to try get Franklin was missed at home and another run scored to make it 6-1, the Saints having gotten a run in the fourth.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” said Franklin. “The team is playing really well and the bats are coming around. Our pitching has been great. It’s all coming together now.”
The fun continued when McKenna grounded out to third with the bases loaded to score Presno for the second time. Up 7-1, the Foresters made it 8-1 on a sac fly to right by Tucker.
Fuller continued a solid run of starts by the Sters, following Game 1 and 2 wins by Ryan Bergert and Luke Taggart. Fuller scattered three hits and allowed only one run while striking out five. Conner Woods came in with two men on and got the Sters out of the, um . . . Woods with a strikeout of Norwood. Jacob Burton, Cole Quintanilla, Caden Monke, and Nico O’Donnell threw nearly perfect shutout relief.
Stay tuned here for updates on the game time for Thursday’s knockout round game.