Foresters dominate in NBC finals

Mark Schnabel
The Santa Barbara Foresters celebrate a 12-3 win over the Cheney Diamond Dawgs Monday night in the championship game of the 86th NBC World Series at Eck Stadium. The Foresters win their eighth NBC title.

The Santa Barbara Foresters have been stingy on defense for the entirety of the 86th National Baseball Congress World Series.

The Foresters closed out the tournament with a 12-3 win over the Cheney Diamond Dawgs Monday night in the championship game.

The win came in a tournament shortened a week because the COVID-19 outbreak. The tournament was reduced from 30 to 13 teams. The format was changed from pool play to bracketed double-elimination.

“The chemistry, we had to all be together,” Forester manager Bill Pintard said. “Usually, we’re all spread out. We had to live together and the bonding came together quick. They all cared about each other, although they are from different schools. Then the level of play. Our level of play was incredible. The chemistry and staying within our bubble really drew them closer together.”

It was the eighth NBC title for the Foresters.

Jace Jung paced the Forester offense in the championship game with two hits, including a home run, and three RBIs.

“Coming in, we had really good information on them,” Jung, a freshman from Texas Tech said. “He was a fastball guy. He just happened to leave one on the corner. I got the swing and the ball just went out there. It gave us the lead and gave everybody confidence. We’re going to rally and score runs.”

It was Jung’s first season with the Foresters.

“I couldn’t be more thankful to have all these players around me and this coaching staff,” Jung said. “What they did to get this season going was unbelievable. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Cheney finished the season 36-8 overall.

“It’s an accomplishment just to get back two years in a row,” Cheney manager Pat Hon said. “We’re so busy trying to win it, we need to take a deep breath. The road always goes through Santa Barbara or the Seattle Studs. Our guys battled. That’s an amazing team. They play hard and that’s a well, put-together team.”

Between Cheney and the third-place Hutchinson Monarchs, the Sunflower Collegiate League teams were two of the top three teams in the tournament this year.

“That’s exciting,” Hon said. “Hutch and us were talking about that yesterday. That’s a cool thing for our league. Our league every year is in the top three.”

Santa Barbara finished the tourney 4-0, outscoring its opponents 33-4. Cheney finishes 3-2 with both losses to the Foresters. It was the second straight year the Dawgs finished second.

The Foresters had a shutout until Cheney’s Caleb Farmer hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

“We didn’t want to give up those runs in the last inning,” Pintard said. “Our pitchers dominated. Our hitters dominated too. Like I said, it’s probably the best team I’ve had in my 26 years of coaching.”

Santa Barbara Forester starter Nick Nastrini threw four innings, allowing four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Nick Proctor followed for a scoreless inning for the win. Four other pitchers combined to finish the game.

The Foresters struck in the top of the first inning. Matthew McLain singled on the first pitch of the game, while Jace Jung hit the fourth pitch of the game out of the park. Santa Barbara then loaded the bases with one out, scoring on a wild pitch.

Hunter Cullen hit a solo shot for the Foresters in the top of the fourth. Christian Encarnacion added an RBI single in the inning.

Sean McLain hit an RBI single for the Foresters in the fifth inning, followed by a Matthew McLain two-run home run.

A Patrick Caulfield RBI single and an error allowed two Forester runs in the sixth inning.

Jung drove in a run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly. Christian Encarnacion drove in a run on a ground out.

Sean McLain went three for five hitting for the Foresters. Matthew McLain, Jung, Encarnacion, Caulfield each added two hits.

“It took a tremendous effort just to be able to play in Santa Barbara,” Pintard said. “We had the backing of our city and parks and recreation department. Even though our fans couldn’t come, they were still excited we played. They were all watching back home. We had to put a lot of restrictions on these guys. These are all young guys.”

Cheney starter Jeff Wilson lasted just six batters taking the loss. Six other pitcher took the mound for the Dawgs.

Santa Barbara outfielder Hunter Cullen snags a fly ball during play against the Cheney Diamond Dawgs in the finals of the NBC World Series.