Late start, fine finish for Kentucky
California pitcher Kevin Eichhorn was cruising along early in his team’s opening game against Kentucky.
The right-hander struck out the side in each of the first two innings. He had the Kentucky hitters off balance. He had them shaking their heads.
After all, Eichhorn stands five feet, three inches tall and weighs just 94 pounds.
But in the third inning the boys from Lousiville, Kentucky caught up to Eichhorn.
Wesley Jenkins led off the frame with a double to left field, and two batters later Zachary Osborne took an Eichhorn pitch over the centerfield fence to give his team a 2-1 lead.
Then, the stage was set for Aaron Alvey. He followed with a home run of his own, one that traveled over the centerfield camera tower. It traveled an estimated 275 feet.
The back-to-back home runs were all Kentucky would need, who beat the West champs from Aptos, California, 4-1.
“Once we made our adjustments at the plate we started to hit the ball hard,” said Kentucky head coach J. Troy Osborne. “Defense and hitting are contagious, and I knew we’d start rolling after Wesley (Jenkins) got on.”
Zachary Osborne was one of Eichhorn’s strike out victims in the first inning. He came to bat in the third frame with a tough-guy attitude.
“I knew I wasn’t going to go up there and strike out,” he said. “I just focused and hit the ball.”
Osborne homered again in the fifth, a solo shot to left-center.
California took an early 1-0 lead on Andrew Biancardi’s two-out RBI double down the left field line. Drew McCauley, who led off the game with a walk, came around to score.
Kevin Farmer followed with a walk, but Aaron Alvey settled down and struck out Tyler Raymond to end the threat.
“I was nervous,” Alvey said. “That’s the best competition I’ve ever seen.”
The right-hander gave up just three hits, never allowing the West champs to establish a rally. He finished the game with 10 strikeouts.
Coach Osborne was happy with his team’s performance, but acknowledged they have to work on some things.
“We were way too selective with our hitting,” he said. “We’re looking at too many pitches right now. But we played solid defense. If we score only one or two runs a game I feel OK.”
Kentucky is now 19-0 in postseason play, and will next face Harlem, New York Sunday at Lamade Stadium. California squares off against Clemmons, North Carolina Sunday at Volunteer Stadium.
West head coach Dave Anderson was not too disappointed with his team’s effort.
“Let’s face it, they only had four hits,” he said. “(Kevin) pitched a great game. I’ll take a four-hitter any game.
“Our mistake today was that we swung at some bad pitches. But give their pitcher credit.”
Eichhorn gave up four runs in five innings of work. He struck out nine and walked just one.