The last time Caleb Sloan pitched for the Santa Barbara Foresters, he took a 3-2 loss in their opening game of the 2018 National Baseball Congress World Series.
His next start in an official game didn’t come until Friday night, but it was a performance worth the wait.
Sloan, who had elbow surgery just before the start of TCU’s 2019 season, pitched four perfect innings for the Foresters in their 9-0 victory at Pershing Park over the Southern California Halos.
The 6-foot-3 righthander, a Big 12 All-Freshman Team pick in 2018, allowed no baserunners while striking out three. He got eight of the other nine outs on ground balls.
“Our pitching was really good,” Foresters manager Bill Pintard said. “The No. 1 story was our defense again. Our defense is really top-notch. We played an errorless ballgame tonight.”
Sloan’s loss to the Conejo Oaks in the NBC opener was his only defeat during that 2018 season in three decisions. The Foresters bounced back to win the 2018 tournament for a record seventh NBC World Series championship.
Sloan, who missed all of TCU’s 2019 and 2020 seasons after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery, plans to transfer to Oregon this fall.
The Foresters (3-0), who have out-scored their first three opponents 37-4, got a combined three-hitter from five pitchers.
After Sloan’s perfect start, UCSB redshirt freshman Charlie Adamson blanked the Halos over the next two innings on two hits. Derek True, a Cal Poly sophomore from Santa Barbara High, hurled a perfect seventh with two strikeouts.
Titus Groeneweg and Sean Mullen finished up with a scoreless inning apiece.
UCLA All-American Matthew McLain was a spark once again from the leadoff spot. He banged out a pair of doubles in three at-bats before leaving the game. He’s batting .636 in the Foresters’ first three games (7-for-11) with five extra-base hits and seven runs scored.
“We really played hard,” Pintard said. “We got a hustle-double right at the get-go by McLain. And Branden Boissiere tagged up on a pop-up to second base which allowed a teammate (Jace Jung) to get an RBI.”
Jung also scored three of Santa Barbara’s nine runs. He put the Foresters on the scoreboard when he led off the second inning with a double, took third on a ground out, and scored on Peyton Graham’s ground out.
The biggest bat, however, belonged to Christian Encarnacion. The slugger from Oklahoma State hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and a ground-rule, RBI double in the fifth that Pintard said actually cleared the fence. It would’ve been his third homer in three games.
“The umpire went out to the left fielder and asked him, and he said it was (a homer),” Pintard said. “He’s hit 32 home runs in the last two seasons (for Oklahoma State) and one was only a quarter of the season.
“He can really hit home runs. We know it and we love it, and he’s a good guy. He had two in our intrasquad games, too — and off our pitching, and our pitching is really good.”
Boissiere added an RBI triple in the third for the Foresters. Of the team’s 32 hits this season, 14 have gone for extra bases.
“Eight of the nine guys in our starting lineup tonight can hit home runs,” Pintard said. “And three of those guys we faced tonight are professional pitchers.”
Noah Cardenas reached base safely in all four of his at-bats, banging out two singles, drawing a walk, and getting hit by a pitch.
The Foresters will return to Pershing Park today for their annual Fourth of the July Game at 4:30 p.m. against the Bakersfield Blaze. They’ll complete their opening weekend on Sunday with a 2 p.m. game against the Inland Empire Buccaneers. Spectators are not allowed at the games because of COVID-19 restrictions.