The Columbia Baseball Tournament final came down to a pitcher’s duel with Fort Zumwalt West’s Derek Kuhlmann outpitching Hickman’s Jackson Kespohl in a 1-0 win.
Kespohl’s night started off rough, giving up a run in the first inning. But from there on he battled throughout his 5⅔ innings, pitching his way out of jams, and had two straight 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth.
Kuhlmann was on another level for the Jaguars, pitching a shutout, going the full seven innings and striking out just as many batters. Kuhlmann was calm, cool and collected when he found himself in the highest-pressure situation for any pitcher: bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the seventh and final inning. With momentum on Hickman’s side after an infield single and an error, Kuhlmann blew three straight strikes by Tait Robertson to end the game and win the tournament for the Jaguars.
The lone run in the game came in the top of the first inning. Fort Zumwalt West’s Dylan Bates grounded out with a runner on third who broke home and scored what would be an early game-deciding run.
Hickman showed tons of grit throughout the game. In the second inning, the Kewpies found themselves in another early jam with runners on first and third. The Jaguars opted to go for the squeeze to try and get another run on the board, but Kespohl reacted accordingly and flipped the ball to catcher Tyler Stine, who made the tag and saved a run. With two outs in the same inning and runners on second and third, Kespohl made it out without any damage done despite the Jaguars threatening repeatedly.
The Kewpies couldn’t string together a rally until the seventh inning. Kuhlmann had more strikeouts than baserunners allowed, as Hickman only put up five hits and one batter hit by a pitch. Kuhlmann had no walks, and the Kewpies appeared to be free-swinging to their detriment at times. They started to make good contact later in the game, but time was quickly running out at that point and luck wasn’t on their side. Each hard hit fly ball went straight to an outfielder waiting for it.
Hickman showed hustle in the bottom of the seventh. Stine was up to bat with two outs and a runner on first and hit a slow grounder that he legged out, diving for first base safely. Joseph Villarreal followed that up with a grounder that the Jaguars’ shortstop bobbled, leading to the bases-loaded jam. While the Kewpies’ offense couldn’t come alive thanks to the performance from Kuhlmann, they didn’t go down quietly.