“Wizard of Oz” pure magic in 2-0 Louisville victory
Zachary Osborne is known as the “Wizard of Oz” to his teammates. Judging by his performance Sunday evening both at the plate and on the hill, the nickname fits. Osborne played like he had a bit of magic up his sleeve.
Osborne was 2-for-3 with a single and a triple in Sunday’s meeting with the Harlem Little League All-Stars, accounting for both of Louisville’s runs. More impressively, Osborne pitched a six-hit shutout and struck out 14 Harlem hitters.
“He pitched a great game,” said Harlem manager Morris McWilliams. “He kept us off balance the entire game.”
Louisville manufactured the first run of the game in the top of the first inning. Osborne singled up the middle to get things going. Osborne then advanced to second on a passed ball and was sacrificed over to third by Aaron Alvey. Osborne came home when Harlem second baseman bobbled a sharply hit ground ball by Ethan Henry.
It was all Osborne again in the third inning. The pitcher ripped a ball down the right field line, which bounced around in the corner. He pulled into a third with a one-out triple.
After Alvey was hit by a pitch, Great Lakes manager J. Troy Osborne rolled the dice and won. The skipper called for a suicide squeeze, and it paid off.
“We have done that a few times this year when we have speed on third base,” J. Osborne said. “You get thrown out a lot, but hopefully you can get the catcher to drop the ball, which is what happened this time.”
The squeeze bunt by Henry was a bit short, allowing Harlem pitcher Jeremy Lopez to field the ball and toss it to catcher Spencer White. But Zachary Osborne was able to knock the ball out of White’s glove with a wrap-around slide and score the second Louisville run.
“I knew it was going to be a close play at the plate, so I slid around the guy, and luckily he dropped the ball,” Osborne recalled.
Harlem threatened in the bottom of the third inning, putting runners at the corners with two-outs. Slugger Jeremy Lopez, who had two home runs in Harlem’s first game, stepped to the plate with his team down two and in need of a hit. But Osborne blew two fastballs by Lopez and then got the slugger to chase a curve for a pivotal strikeout.
Harlem had a chance to win the game in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the sixth. With the bases loaded and his team still leading 2-0, Osborne fanned Fernando Frias for the second out of the inning. That meant that it was Osborne versus White with the game on the line.
Osborne tossed a nasty off-speed pitch by White for strike one. White almost got a hold of Osborne’s next pitch, sending it into foul territory. Then, with all 12,900 in attendance at Lamade Stadium on their feet, Osborne nailed strike three on the outside corner.
“I was really nervous with the bases loaded and two outs,” Osborne said. “So I just took a deep breath and buckled down and struck the guy out.
“As the ball left my hand, I was just thinking ‘Get the out, win the game.’”
The Harlem team now finds itself in a must-win situation when it faces Aptos, Calif., on Monday.
“When we lost at Bristol (Conn., in the Mid-Atlantic regional), they raised it up a notch,” said McWilliams. “They don’t like this feeling. They will come back harder.
“We have one more game to play, that is the qualifying game – we are not out of it yet.”