It didn’t take the Santa Barbara Foresters very long to get going in their opening game of the 86th National Baseball Congress World Series on Tuesday night in Wichita, Kansas.
Matt McLain hit the second pitch he saw over the center-field fence to lead off the game, and UCLA stud Nick Nastrini pitched a gem to lead the Foresters to an 8-0 win over the Denver Cougars.
The game was shortened to seven innings due to the eight-run rule.
McLain’s home run sparked a three-run Santa Barbara first inning that also included a double by Christian Encarnacion, a sacrifice fly by Branden Boissiere and a wild pitch. Encarnacion also belted a solo home run in the fifth. It was more than enough offense for Nastrini and reliever Alex Boshers, who combined on a two-hitter.
“We had a really good hitting practice earlier in the day, and we talked about slowing the game down and playing within ourselves,” Foresters manager Bill Pintard said. “We knew that if we played up to our regular ability, we were going to be fine. And we did. It makes a statement to win the first game like that.”
Nastrini, the Foresters ace this summer, sailed through his six innings of work. He allowed just one hit — which came in the sixth inning — and struck out 11 while issuing one walk. Boshers, a newcomer to the Santa Barbara bullpen, pitched a scoreless seventh to end the game.
After issuing a one-out walk in the second inning, Nastrini retired the next 12 batters he faced before he allowed a one-out single to Mack McKisson in the seventh. The talented right-hander struck out six in a row from the third to the fifth inning.
“Eleven strikeouts in six innings of work, he pounded the fastball and he had a really good changeup tonight,” Pintard said. “His slider was also really good. He had three quality pitches going tonight. (Denver) really didn’t have a chance against him.”
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Foresters tacked on two more in the fifth when Arizona State standout and brother of Matt McLain, Sean McLain, connected for an inside-the-park home run, which worked out to be a two-run homer. Sean McLain lined a ball to center field that bounced over Matt Turner’s head and rolled all the way to the wall in dead center field. McLain never slowed up around the bases.
“I thought he had a chance (at an inside-the-park home run) because he’s really fast,” Pintard said of Sean McLain. “It rolled all the way to the wall and we sent him (around third).
“Their shortstop had a good arm and he made a good throw to the plate, but Sean beat it. He was flying.”
UCLA catcher Noah Cardenas reached base three times for the Foresters with a walk, hit by pitch and a single. Casey Dykstra and Encarnacion led Santa Barbara with two hits apiece. Dykstra, who batted eighth in the lineup, had a bunt single in the fourth inning and a two-run, opposite-field home run that just snuck inside the left-field foul pole in the sixth to make it 8-0.
The Foresters advance in the winner’s bracket where they will play the Liberal, Kansas Bee Jays on Thursday night at Wichita State University. The game will either be at 4:30 p.m. (PDT) or 6:30 p.m. (PDT).
There is no love-loss between the two teams, which have played each other a number of times in past years at the NBC World Series.
“There’s history,” Pintard said. “Years ago, they were really good, but there’s some history of rough slides, and their fans have been disrespectful in the past. I have a long memory.”