Four days after a 13-12 barnburner in favor of the Kentucky Prospects Nationals squad, it was pitching that truly delivered on Friday night — as the Americans eked out a 5-2 win, and the split, at Brooks Stadium.
For the Americans, it was the combined efforts of starter Daven McGee (Carlisle County, Murray State), CJ Johnson (Marshall County, Midway), Cameron Head (Livingston Central, Southeastern Illinois College) and Bryce Thomas (Caldwell County, Northern Kentucky University) — who limited the Nationals to seven hits and two earned runs and eight strikeouts in all.
Head picked up the victory, notching five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of relief.
For the Nationals, the pitching was just as solid. Trey Elkins (Brescia), Corbin Hayden (Carlisle County, Southeastern Illinois College), Mel Mulholland (Shawnee Community College) and Jackson Fitzgerald (Paducah Tilghman, Union College) also held the Americans to just seven hits.
But of the five runs surrendered, only three were earned, with Mulholland tagged for the loss by giving up two earned runs in two relief innings.
Aside from Head’s nearly-perfect relief performance, it was McGee (two innings pitched, one earned run, two strikeouts, three walks) and Hayden (three innings pitched, no earned runs, three strikeouts) who had the strongest command.
Even better, they’re former teammates in Bardwell, and two guys who really missed the opportunity at a strong finish to their respective high school careers.
“This is special, and it’s definitely the best competition that I’ve faced in a while,” McGee said. “It feels good to be back out on the field and get that opportunity to play the game again. I was a little rusty, because it’s the first time that I’ve thrown in a game in more than a year. I came out, and I was hoping my slider would be on and hitting my spots. I did that some. Not as much as I should’ve. We keep playing, it’ll progress.”
“It felt really good,” Hayden added. “This is the competition that I’m going to be facing, and maybe better, at SIC. My curveball felt pretty good. Felt like I was spotting my fastball, but defense bailed me out on that.”
The Nationals held a precarious 2-1 lead after six innings when the Americans jumped on top for good. Braxton Zivic’s two-run double in the top of the seventh stanza wound up being the game-winner, but Tyler Belcher — from Marshall County and now at SIC, too — tacked on an RBI double in the top of the eighth for needed insurance.
“This has been wonderful,” noted Americans coach Shawn Yarbrough. “It’s been great giving back to the kids. It’s been a rough couple of months for these kids not getting to play. Lot of opportunities missed, as far as games played, and a lot of missed opportunity, in terms of getting to develop.
“But a lot of these guys have been playing with us and growing up through the Prospects organization. It’s great to get these guys back on the field with something they’re comfortable with, in order to build some confidence, and get some reps in.”
AMERICANS 5, NATIONALS 2
Americans 001 000 220 — 5 7 0
Nationals 100 010 000 — 2 7 3
WP: Cameron Head, LP: Mel Mulholland
2B: AMER — Tyler Belcher 2, Blake Schmitt, Braxton Zivic; NAT — Jase Felker. 3B: none. HR: none.
Top Hitters: AMER — Eric Riffe 1-2 (RBI, R, 2 BB), Tyler Belcher 2-4 (RBI), Braxton Zivic 1-3 (2 RBI). NAT — Jacob Pennington 2-3 (R, RBI), Trey Hutchinson 1-3 (RBI), Mel Mulholland 1-3 (R)
Records: NAT 1-1, AMER 1-1.
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