Foresters go deep, Meaux and Milner throw darts

WICHITA — Jesse Meaux had his best start of the summer, Hoby Milner was dominant out of the bullpen and Nick Melino hit the first pitch of the top of the first inning over the left field fence. Some control issues for middle relievers made things close for a bit, but the Santa Barbara Foresters got runs when needed in a 7-2 win over the League City (TX) Hornets on Thursday at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in the National Baseball Congress World Series. Santa Barbara is now 2-0 in the tournament.

The 8 p.m. start in the night’s feature game drew a crowd of about 3,000 to the ballpark. Milner, 19, has pitched on the big stage as a freshman at the University of Texas this past year, but he came on in a sticky situation in the top of the seventh. Relievers Kylin Turnbull and Matthew Reckling struggled with their command and the Hornets cut the lead to 4-1.

BOX SCORE

Milner, whose mom and grandmother came from Texas for the game, took the mound with the bases loaded. An error at second base allowed another run to score to make it 4-2. Milner stayed calm, however, and fanned the next two batters to end the inning. He finished with four strikeouts in an inning and two-thirds. On one of his fastballs, the stadium radar gun flashed 97 miles per hour.

“I wasn’t very nervous, but obviously I came in wanting to really help us out,” said Milner, who was at 90-92 mph most of the night. “I don’t really know if I was at 97, but I just looked up at the scoreboard and thought it was pretty cool.”

Meaux was also clocked at 97 on a pitch during his outing.

An interesting story line was the Hornets’ starting pitcher, Matt Evers, who played for the Foresters (42-9) in 2008 and 2009. Evers, who was excellent out of the bullpen as a Forester, had some severe control issues at Rice University this spring. Although he is a reliever he got the start against his old team and pitched four and two-thirds innings, giving up four runs on five hits and throwing 91 pitches. Melino hit his first pitch out of the park, and James Wharton went deep to lead off the second inning.

“It was nice to see him out there, and he kinda pitched better than we expected,” said manager Bill Pintard. “He’s had some control issues due to mechanics… I had a good conversation with him and he said it was tough for him to pitch against us. Once a Forester always a Forester, and I really care about him as a person.”

Melino finished a triple short of the cycle, Jeremy Rathjen had a pair of hits and Michael Ratterre hit an RBI triple off the wall as part of a three-run bottom of the seventh. Santa Barbara ran hard as always, stealing four bases on the night.

Next up is a grudge match against the Liberal (KS) Bee Jays on Saturday, the team which knocked the Foresters out of last year’s tournament.

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