Lin-Wood's Kelley comes up aces

Lin-Wood starter Andrew Kelley fanned 19 Lisbon batters in nine innings of work. Michael Beniash. (click for larger version)
May 13, 2009
LINCOLN—Looking for a better all-around player in Class S? Look no further than Lin-Wood's Andrew Kelley.

Case in point came on the senior's home turf last Wednesday. Baffling Lisbon for nine dazzling innings, the left-hander who bats right-handed, fanned 19 Panthers before delivering the game-winning single that sent the Lumberjacks to a 1-0, 11-inning walk-off win.

"I haven't really seen a better performance than that," said Lisbon coach Jeremy Aldrich. "If there weren't pitching rules, he could very well carry them to a championship. I'm not knocking Lin-Wood, but if any one player could do it, it would be him. He's that good."

How good? Try these numbers.

Kelley, who already has a no-hitter this season, had a hand in 28 of the 33 recorded outs. In addition to his season-high strikeout total, he recorded four fielding outs from his pitching position and five more from shortstop—which included a game-saving out on a line drive in the 10th—after being relieved by Austin Tetley, who ultimately earned the victory.

On the mound, Kelley fanned two or more batters in seven of his nine innings of work, three times striking out the side, including Lisbon's 3-4-5 batters in the fourth and ninth frames. He did yield six walks, but held the potent Panthers to just one hit—an opposite-field single in the seventh to catcher Ericson Smith.

Of the game's six hits, Kelley was the lone batter to record more than one of them. His second single—the game-winning line drive to left field on a 3-1 count with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning—scored Zach York, who had walked and reached third after Michael Mann drew a walk and Nate King reached on a bunt single.

Enough said.

"It was a big high for Kelley," said his coach Andre Desjardins, who noted his ace pitcher was scheduled to start this specific contest two weeks in advance. "He kept his head in the game and he came up big. When you can throw a 3-2 curveball and freeze the batter for a strikeout, that's special."

Kelley's effort was certainly that, and it overshadowed a spectacular ballgame that featured brilliant pitching and even thicker plots as two solid squads dueled for three hours under a hazy gray sky.

"One of the best games I've ever been to. And I've been to a lot of them," said Desjardins, whose Lumberjacks (5-3) have won four of their last six contests.

"They don't get much better than that. Except coming out on the other end," reiterated Aldrich, whose Panthers (3-4) have dropped four of five; the last two coming by a combined two runs.

Kelley's mound counterpart, meanwhile, was just as determined. Kyle Fifield, who suffered the unexpected passing of his grandfather the day before, summoned the courage to make his scheduled start. He made the most of it, striking out 11 and giving up just two hits in seven innings. The senior right-hander also fanned two batters in three different innings, along with three straight in the fourth.

"I gave Kyle the option of not playing; to recoup," Aldrich said. "But he said he wanted to play. He never once showed a wavering of feelings or emotions. He was really focused. It was a tremendous performance in that situation for a teenager.

"Being able to pitch the game was probably the best thing for him."

In a game that could have gone either way, Fifield's teammate Smith took the loss. But it came after 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in which he fanned six, walked four and gave up three hits.

"The team all knew what was going on and we wanted to win it for Kyle," Aldrich said. "It just didn't happen. It will sting, but Lin-Wood deserved to win. We had one hit, three errors and numerous errors on the base paths."

Beyond Kelley, Tetley's late-inning pitching and Lin-Wood's defense helped limit Lisbon's production. Tetley, a junior righty, worked two innings and didn't yield a hit.

"He's always been our go-to reliever. He knows how to throw strikes and get an out," Desjardins said.

The Lumberjacks also didn't commit an error for the third time this season, and three times turned double plays last Wednesday. Two of them ended innings, including a strikeout followed by a throwout at third base to prevent the Panthers from rallying in the sixth.

"To win a game like that gives the team a super boost," Desjardins said. "The guys were pretty wound up. They played hard and were pretty flawless defensively. At the halfway point, it was pretty good to see that kind of performance."

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