COLUMBIA — Jack Fischer clinched his right fist in front of his chest after striking out the opposing batter to end the top of the fourth inning.
It was the third consecutive scoreless inning pitched for the 9-year-old boy. He pitched the entire five-inning game, allowing three runs.
Jack plays for the Gators, a Columbia-based team playing in the 9-and-under age division of the Show-Me State Games. The team consists of 11 players from Paxton Keeley Elementary and Fairview Elementary, who played in Daniel Boone Little League.
“We just wanted to play a few extra games this summer in addition to Daniel Boone,” Gators coach John Hay said. “So this is our fourth tournament that we’ve played.”
Each team in the Show-Me State Games plays one game Friday and two Saturday, all versus teams in the same group. Whichever team wins the group goes on to play two more games Sunday. With the potential for five games in three days, pitching becomes a concern for most coaches.
“That’s always a worry,” Hay said. “Hopefully, if we can get three innings out of everyone, they can pitch maybe two games over the course of the tournament, if we’re fortunate enough to make it to Sunday.”
With six players who can pitch, Hays said he wasn’t worried before their first game of the tournament Friday afternoon versus Houstonia, a team from Hughesville. But after Jack gave him five solid innings, his worries diminished even more.
Jack has only been pitching for about two years, but his demeanor on the mound doesn’t show his relative lack of experience. Apart from his almost unnoticeable fist pump, Jack didn’t let his emotions get to him on the mound, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t feeling them.
“I was really nervous before the game started,” Jack said. “But I calmed down after the first inning.”
That nervousness might have been a factor in the first inning. Jack had a little trouble with his control early on, and the defense behind him was a little shaky, leading to two runs for Houstonia. But Jack settled down nicely, and so did the Gators’ defense.
Jack doesn’t throw hard, but he threw a lot of strikes. He struck out some hitters, but let his defense do the rest. In the 9-and-under age division, limiting walks is important. There are a lot of stolen bases at this age, so walks can quickly turn into runs, something the Gators’ offense was able to take advantage of.
The Gators responded quickly to Houstonia’s two-run first inning by scoring three runs before making an out in the bottom of the inning. They added four more in the second and won the game 13-3.
“Do you know what won that game? Good defense,” Hay said to his team after the game. “Good pitching and good defense.”
The Gators continue group play Saturday, with games versus teams from Foristell and California, Mo.