Griffin strikes out 13 in dominant performance

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Pitching the day after a teammate throws a no-hitter is like taking the stage after Mozart.

A.J. Griffin calmly went out and made like Beethoven on Saturday, striking out 13 in seven innings as the Santa Barbara Foresters shut out the San Luis Obispo Rattlers 4-0. Griffin gave up two hits in the first inning before retiring 18 straight SLO batters.

The performance came just a day after Matt Leonard threw the second no-hitter in team history.

“I just went out there and tried to fill up the strike zone. You try not to think about what you’re following up in that situation, but obviously (the no-hitter) was in the back of my mind and I just wanted to pitch well,” he said humbly.

The University of San Diego star threw 72 strikes and just 35 balls in the outing, getting ahead of seemingly every batter with first-pitch strikes. He didn’t walk a single batter.

“It was outsanding. He just pounded the strike zone and moved it around. He was throwing 87-89 mph, so he wasn’t blowing people away with his fastball. He was blowing people away with his command,” said manager Bill Pintard. “We’re totally dominating them on the mound.”

The win puts the Foresters 3.5 games ahead of the Rattlers in the California Collegiate League standings, and Santa Barbara is now 5-0 in the rivalry on the season.

The offense wasn’t half bad either, collecting nine hits and putting up three runs in the top of the first inning on SLO starter Richie Morowski. Drew Maggi led off with a double and Davis Duren followed with a single. Ryan Goetz walked on four pitches to load the bases with no outs, and all three came in thanks to a sac fly by Matt Valaika, a fielding error by the Rattlers and an RBI single by Vincenzo St. John.

Duren singled to lead off the third and was driven in on a single by Hege to end the day’s scoring. It was more than enough for Griffin, who gave way to Matt Evers in the eighth before Matt Hutchison closed the door. Despite being in second place, the Rattlers are the only CCL team to have not beaten the Foresters this season.

The first-pitch strikes were a big key to Griffin’s success.

“When you get a strike on the first pitch it automatically puts the hitter in a defensive situation. you’re in control when you get that first strike,” he said.

The Foresters (27-9, 11-3) are in control and seemed primed to win their seventh consecutive CCL title. The series wraps up with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. All games are broadcast on AM 1490 KIST and www.sbforesters.org.

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