SPARTA — Licking County A’s Post 804 pitchers Michael Boichen and Bryan Large combined to hold Union Post 79 to four runs, while scattering nine hits to lift their team to a 7-4 victory in American Legion Tournament action Wednesday.
Down 2-1 early, the A’s got a fourth-inning leadoff hit by right fielder Steve Kidwell, who went to third after his team loaded the bases. Center fielder Miles Richardson’s sacrifice fly to center scored Kidwell to tie it up, 2-2.
“Overall, we’ve been hitting the ball well in this tournament,” said A’s coach Rick Houston. “The other day we had 19 hits. We have a lot of guys who are tough outs. We like to run up the other pitcher’s pitch count. Their guy was up to 60-some pitches through three innings. You’re not going to be able to pitch a nine-inning game throwing 180 pitches. The deeper you can work the pitch count, the quicker you can get to their bullpen.”
Left fielder Nate Hopkins chased first baseman Mike Gholini (3-for-4, single, double and a homer) home with the go ahead run. Second baseman Matthew Lewis singled home catcher Jesse Hughes (1-for-2 and two walks) to make it 4-2 in the fourth.
“We have a lot of good hitters on the team,” said Hughes. “A lot of guys go up there and they’re just ready to make contact. They’re not afraid to draw walks and just do the little things that win ball games.”
Meanwhile, Boichen struck out seven batters and only threw 99 pitches. He struck out three of the final four batters he faced in the sixth — his final inning of work.
“He competes,” said Houston who had thought about taking Boichen out in the fourth because his pitch count was getting a bit high. “I told him, ‘Quit trying to be to careful and just throw it,’ because he can chuck it a little bit.”
After that, Large picked up the save, yielding three hits and a run over the final three innings.
“It’s a long game,” said Large. “You’ve got to stay in it for a long time. It’s a lot of wear and tear on pitchers — especially going deep into innings. The longer (the starters) last, the better it is. When you’re called upon to come out of the pen, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
In these longer, nine-inning tournament games, good pitching is critical — even to a team with as many good arms as the A’s possess.
“We still have Drew (Ryan) and we have Chase (Houston) and Gholini who can pitch but you have to take them out of the field and then, you lose your DH,” explained Houston. “It’s been a learning process for us in that you have to make sure that there are guys on the bench that are ready to come out of the bullpen.”
“You just have to bear down and just give it everything you’ve got,” said Hughes, who caught the full nine innings. “We just have to slow things down a bit.”