CARY, N.C.—The final score would make it appear that Huntington Beach (Calif.) cruised to an easy 8-3 win over Merritt Island (Fla.) in a consolation game Thursday at the National High School Invitational.
Don’t tell that to Kenny Kim.
When Kim came in to relieve starting pitcher Nate Madole in the fourth inning, he inherited a two-run lead, but in a situation with two men on, no outs and the top of the Merritt Island lineup coming up.
“I was just trying to hit my spots and get ground balls,” Kim said. “I knew I was facing their one-two-three hitters, so I had to pitch carefully.”
A strikeout, a ground out and a fly out later, Kim had gotten out of the inning without allowing a run or even a ball out of the infield.
“That was a pivotal moment. It was huge,” Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure said.
Huntington Beach’s lead remained a tight two-run margin until the seventh, when the Oilers added four more runs led by a Joshua Hahn double and a Nick Lopez RBI single.
Merritt Island did get one run back in the bottom of the seventh thanks to back-to-back doubles by Mason Denaburg and Brady McConnell, but reliever Tanner Southern picked up a strikeout to end the game.
With a lineup led by draft prospects Nick Pratto (1-for-3, RBI) and Hagen Danner (1-for-2, 2 BB, 2 runs) the Oilers are used to playing for the big inning. But at the NHSI, they discovered that they are going to need to play a little differently.
“We wanted to shake it up today to get some energy,” Medure said. “We come to these big fields. The ball is not carrying so we had to switch it up to a faster offense. We ran a lot more. Yesterday was humbling. We tattooed some balls that didn’t leave the park . . . So we had to go after a little smaller (approach).”
Huntington Beach had only one extra-base hit, but they had three stolen bases and ran the bases aggressively. The Oilers scored a run in the first on a wild pitch. They added two more in the third to take the lead on a two RBI single by Cohl Staffa. Pratto’s RBI single in the fourth extended the lead to 4-2.
McConnell led Merritt Island with a 2-for-4 day that included a run scored and two RBIs.