Although April showers fell down on Concordia’s Porter Park, the pitching in Westview’s 1-0 win over Central Catholic on Wednesday made it feel like June.
“That was a great pitcher’s duel,” Westview head coach Steve Antich said. “It kind of felt like a playoff game between Stringer and Kenyon.”
The two starting pitchers each threw complete games and combined to give up just five hits. In the end, Westview’s Kenyon Yovan was slightly better than Central Catholic’s Cole Stringer. Yovan gave up just one hit and chalked up 12 strikeouts in a gutsy 122-pitch performance.
“He’s one of the best in the state,” Antich said of his ace. “The velocity is there. When he’s mixing in the curveball, it becomes devastating.”
It took some time for Yovan to command his curveball. The 2014 Metro League Pitcher of the Year walked two Rams in the opening frame and threw 24 pitches. However, he quickly responded by striking out the side looking in the second inning.
“We’d like to see him start a little sharper and keep the pitch count down early,” Antich said. “He kind of settled in and cruised after the beginning.”
Yovan allowed just four more baserunners the rest of the game.
Central Catholic’s best opportunity came in the fifth inning. Tyson Cooper ran out a dribbler down the third base line for an infield single. After Cooper’s single, Yovan walked Stringer to give the Rams runners on first and second with no outs. The University of Oregon commit re-established himself, striking out two of the next three Rams hitters to get out of the jam.
Yovan’s dominance was equally matched by Central Catholic’s Stringer through the first four innings.
The senior left-hander was perfect through three innings and only allowed one base-runner, as a result of an error, through four innings. His looping curveball kept the Wildcats off-balanced.
Westview’s first hits came in the fifth inning when Tyler Stofiel and Brady Johnson each singled to give the Wildcats runners on first and second with one out. Similarly to Yovan, Stringer was able to get out of his fifth inning jam unscathed.
“I thought we had a lot of good at-bats,” Antich said. “It didn’t show up on the scoreboard as a lot of runs, but we hit a lot of balls right at them.”
It finally showed up on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. After Colton Sakamoto led off the inning with a walk, Jayden Hanna and Yovan each singled to load the bases with no outs. Parker Kelly came through with a sacrifice fly to right field, which is all the run support Yovan would need.
“Last year, our offense let us down at times,” Antich said. “So, that’s what I’ve been most pleasantly surprised by is how well our guys have battled, put balls in play and had productive at-bats.”
The lack of offensive production led to a second round exit in the playoffs last season for the 2014 co-Metro League champions. With improved at-bats and the return of four Metro League first team players, Antich believes the 2015 Wildcats are built for a deep postseason run that could result in the Wildcats’ first state championship since 2011.
“If it all comes together for us, we’re going to be tough to beat,” he said. “We like our chances with the arms we can throw out there.”
If Yovan’s one-hitter on Wednesday is a sign of performances to come, the Wildcats will remain a favorite through June to win its first state championship since 2011.
Check out photos from the game.
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