For the second time in as many starts, 14-year-old Sam McFarland pitched a nearly flawless game as Owensboro Catholic took down Apollo 7-1 Friday in the 9th District baseball opener for both clubs.
The freshman followed up his strong outing in Tuesday’s 3rd Region All ‘A’ Classic game with an impressive 6-inning performance against the Eagles (8-6), surrendering just one run on two hits in the win for the Aces (10-6).
For the home team, it was senior Jakob Helms who got the nod, and he pitched effectively through the first five frames before giving way to fellow senior Trevor Payne. Helms surrendered three runs (two earned) on six hits, seven strikeouts and one walk.
Catholic got on the board first win Alex Castlen double to drive in McFarland in the third inning. The Aces added a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Apollo finally got on the board when Dan St. Claire hit a sacrifice fly to score Tommy Clark in the fifth.
Entering the seventh and final inning, Apollo trailed just 3-1. However, two hits, two walks and two errors led to four runs for the visiting Aces. In the bottom of the seventh, sophomore pitcher Hunter Small came on to retire the Apollo side in order, successfully closing the door on a potential comeback.
Following the disappointing home loss, Apollo head coach Mason Head was admittedly frustrated with his team’s lack of run production. Feeling that his pitcher threw the ball well enough to win, Head lamented the failure to string together quality at-bats.
“The frustrating thing about this game is that the score doesn’t tell the full story,” he said. “Seeing a final score of 7-1 might make you think it wasn’t a close game, but it was for a long time. Helms pitched well enough to win the game tonight, and it’s disappointing that we only put up two hits to support him. Our approach needs to be better at the plate.”
While the Eagles’ win streak was snapped by Owensboro Catholic after six games, a victory marked four in a row for the Aces. Owensboro Catholic head coach Derek Hibbs was thrilled by the efforts of his young team after the game.
“For us, it has been a team mindset on offense all year,” Hibbs said. “Today we hit the ball hard with runners in scoring position, hit well in big situations and advanced runners when we needed to do so. We have a young team, but we also have a bunch that really understands baseball. They know they’re talented, but they also know you can’t just show up and win games, you really have to be on top of your game every pitch. Our seniors have done a great job of setting the tone for us in that regard.”
Head gave credit to his opponent for getting the victory.
“It’s really simple, the team that played the better game won tonight,” Head said. “McFarland pitched a solid game and had a great presence at the plate tonight. I was really impressed with him.”
WP: McFarland. LP: Helms. 2B: Wiman, Castlen (OC).