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Red-Hot Foresters Blaze Way into NBC World Series Semifinals

Connor Mayes threw six shutout innings and struck out 10 in the Foresters’ 11-0 win over the Northwest Honkers. Click to view larger
Connor Mayes threw six shutout innings and struck out 10 in the Foresters’ 11-0 win over the Northwest Honkers. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk File Photo)

The heat was on at the National Baseball Congress World Series on Thursday.

On a sultry 99-degree day in Wichita, Kan., the Santa Barbara Foresters were on fire in their quarterfinal game against the Northwest Honkers of Washington.

Connor Mayes struck out 10 in six shutout innings, and Forester batters rapped out 14 hits, including two home runs, in an 11-0 rout that ended on the mercy rule in six innings.

The win puts the Foresters in the semifinals against the San Diego Force on Friday at 7:30 p.m. It marks the 14th straight season the ballclub has advanced to the final four of the national championship.

In what was Mayes’ final appearance for the Foresters (the University of Texas has asked that Mayes not start any further games), the righthander was sizzling. His six shutout innings extended his scoreless streak to 24 innings and his 10 strikeouts were a season high for him.

“Only one of the seven hits he gave up was hit hard, and four of them were infield singles off the turf,” said manager Bill Pintard. “He was 93 mph on the first pitch of the game and 93 mph on his 99th pitch, a totally dominating performance.

"Connor has been our big-game stopper this summer. He’s made such tremendous strides since he started with us. [Pitching coach ] Tony Coulgoule deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s done with Connor and with Kyle Johnston.”

First baseman Hunter Williams gave Mayes all he needed early, cracking his seventh homer of the summer in the first inning for a 2-0 lead.

“When I got to the yard, I could feel the heat,” added Pintard. “It was probably 120 on the turf, you could see the heat coming off the ground. And the wind was blowing out to left. I said, we’re going to hit some home runs today. Williams’ shot was one of the longest balls I’ve ever seen a Forester hit. It rivals a 2008 shot that Kevin Keyes hit about 470 feet.”

Santa Barbara added three more in the third. With runners at first and second, Bret Boswell lined a single to right to score Matt Henderson. Williams followed with an RBI single. Lex Kaplan sent Boswell home with a long, high single that banged off the center-field wall. The inning could have been worse for the Honkers, but they doubled Kaplan off second on a line drive to center by Dylan Paul.

Speaking of hot, Boswell continued his torrid hitting by sending a soaring homer to center field to lead off the fifth and give the Foresters a 7-0 lead. It was the Texas third baseman’s 10th homer of the season, tied for third-most in Foresters history. Boswell also now has 10 RBI in Wichita.

The Foresters clinched their mercy-rule win with a four-run sixth. Four of the first five hitters for Santa Barbara came in to score, two on RBI by Boswell and Williams, giving the latter four RBI on the day. In all, the Foresters’ 3-4-5 hitters reached base 11 of 12 times, scored six times, and drove in eight runs.

In the bottom of the sixth, Mayes closed out the Honkers, fittingly striking out the final batter with the bases loaded.

Mayes will be a spectator from now on, but he’ll relax knowing how much he has contributed all summer.

“I absolutely got better as a pitcher,” he said about his Santa Barbara summer “I had three goals, which were to dominate inside with the fastball, get a better slider, and to stay away from the walks. I’ve hit all of those goals. And now we’re looking forward to taking care of business tomorrow.”

With a rested bullpen and a team average above .360, the Foresters head to Friday’s semifinal having outscored Wichita opponents 37-4.

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