NEW ALBANY — The Mount Vernon 12U All-Star Yellow Jackets marched 17 batters to the plate in the first two innings of their Little League State Tournament opener in New Albany’s Bevelhymer Park on Saturday evening, breaking the game wide open with eight runs.
Mount Vernon’s Cam Firebaugh tossed four scoreless innings, yielding a pair of hits and a walk while striking out four to lead his team to a 15-2, five-inning win over Englewood. The game was shortened due to the run rule.
Jackets’ second baseman Payton Hempfield led off the game with a base hit. He reached base in all three plate appearances, singling twice and drawing a base on balls. He scored all three times.
“We wanted to get on them early,” Hempfield said. “(Getting a big lead) took a lot of pressure off us. Basically, we were more calm.”
Firebaugh (0-for-1) drew three walks and scored each time to help his own cause. He benefited from an offense that racked up seven hits and took advantage of 11 combined walks from Englewood’s four pitchers.
“My teammates in the field were pumping me up and getting me ready,” Firebaugh said.
A very solid performance behind the plate by Jackets’ catcher Wes Neighbarger, who did not allow any passed balls, kept Englewood’s seven base runners from advancing into scoring position.
“Wes helped me throw more strikes,” Firebaugh said. “He didn’t let the ball get by him.”
Neighbarger’s value to the Jackets is not lost on their coach, either.
“That helps the pitcher to loosen up,” said Mount Vernon 12U coach Corey Firebaugh. “He knows if he throws some in the dirt, maybe the batter will go fishing for it and make a bad swing. He can do that sometimes if he knows the catcher is going to block it up. Then the runners won’t be going base-to-base or stealing home. Having him back there was a great relief for our pitchers tonight.”
The younger Firebaugh breezed through the first inning with seven pitches, finishing his four-inning stint with 52. Englewood pitchers Landan Savareid and Bryce Kincaid combined to throw 69 pitches in the first two innings.
“That’s been our battle cry at districts and state is that we have to jump out early,” Coach Firebaugh said. “That puts the pressure on the other team.”
Also for the Jackets, centerfielder Caden Theibert scored three times, reaching on a single and a base on balls. He was also hit by a Savareid pitch in the opening inning. Shortstop Zac Clow was 1 for 2 with an RBI single in the second. He also walked twice and scored twice in the game.
Neighbarger singled and scored in the fifth to go 1 for 4. Big William Armstrong reached on a fielder’s choice and scored in the Jackets’ seven-run fifth. Grayson Brokaw added a run and a pair of walks for the Jackets.
Pinch hitter Skylar Lawrence socked a two-run single in the fifth inning to cap the scoring for the Jackets. Hayden Higgins walked, singled and scored, going 1 for 3. He also came on in relief of Cam Firebaugh in the bottom of the fifth to finish out the game on the mound for the Jackets.
The Jackets will face Hamilton West Side on Tuesday evening at Bevelhymer Park at 4 p.m.