Four pitchers advance Foresters to semifinals with near-perfect game
WICHITA, Kan. – The Santa Barbara Foresters were nearly pitch-perfect while throwing a no-hitter against Liberal, Kan. at the National Baseball Congress World Series on Thursday.
Three of the Foresters’ four pitchers retired the Bee Jays’ first 24 batters while coming within one walk of a perfect game in the 8-0 victory at Eck Stadium.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a no-hitter,” manager Bill Pintard said. “These guys just kept passing the baton from one guy to another, and they all delivered.”
The Foresters (28-4), who are bidding to increase their NBC record of World Series titles to eight, advance to Saturday’s semifinals of the double-elimination event. They will play the top-seeded Cheney, Kan. Diamond Dawgs with a tentative start time of 4 p.m. PST..
Liberal (30-8), five-time NBC champions, drop into the loser’s bracket.
Starting pitcher Sean Johnson, who was recruited off a Santa Maria Pea Soup Andersen’s team that lost to the Foresters 11 out of 12 times this year, threw seven perfect innings. He struck out seven.
“He has really good stuff,” Pintard said. “He also made a tremendous play on a slow roller and barehanded it to throw the batter out.”
Coleman Huntley, another pickup from Pea Soup, took over in the seventh and struck out the side, as did Peyton Pallette in the eighth.
“We lost some starting pitchers, and lost some guys in the middle of our bullpen, so I had to pick up some guys,” Pintard said. “We saw the good stuff those guys have when we played them. They’re good competitors, too.”
Foresters’ closer Elijah Trest walked Kody Bigford, Liberal’s leadoff batter in the bottom of the ninth, but then completed the fourth no-hitter in Foresters’ history. Ryan Holgate ran down a long foul ball down the right field line, Jace Jung caught a pop up behind second base, and then Trest struck out Caeden Trenkle to complete the no-hitter.
The Foresters combined to whiff 14 Bee Jays.
Santa Barbara scored its first run without the benefit of hit. Branden Boissiere reached safely on a throwing error, stole second base, tagged up and took third on Noah Cardenas’ fly out to right and tagged up again to score on Ryan Holgate’s fly to left.
Boissere did hit safely three times, going 3-for-5 with a double. Seven of the other eight batters for Santa Barbara got one hit apiece.
The Foresters’ first hit was a lead-off home run in the third inning by Hunter Cullen, another recruit off Pea Soup Andersen’s.
“After he hit it, I heard some yelling coming out of the dugout that sounded like boo,” Pintard said. “But actually, they were calling out ‘Soup!’ These are all really good guys who are blending in well and the chemistry is really good.”
The Foresters’ second hit didn’t come until the sixth inning – and once again they made it count. Matthew McLain led off with a double down the left-field line, tagged up and took third on Christian Encarnacion’s fly out to right and scored on Boissiere’s opposite-field single to left.
McLain’s brother Sean helped preserve the no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth when he bare-handed a ground ball near third base and threw out Noah White at first to end the inning.
Santa Barbara busted loose in the last two innings for seven hits and five more runs.
Jung led off the eighth by hitting an opposite-field home run to left, his ninth of the season. Encarnacion, who homered in the Foresters’ Tuesday game, leads the team with 10, third-most in club history and just two off the single-season record of 12 set by Mark Wipf in 1996.
Santa Barbara scored four times in the ninth, getting RBI singles by Encarnacion and Holgate and a run-scoring double by Boissiere.
“We talked after the game,” Pintard said, “and I told them, ‘Look at the scoreboard … Their hit column says zero and our error column says zero. That’s the way you play baseball.”