Kevin “Bull Snake” Hill has always had a bit of a don’t-sweat-it approach to both baseball and life, in general.
But since struggling in his first three starts this spring, the ace of the Midwest City (Okla.) pitching staff has been under orders to perspire – profusely, if possible.
The 18-year-old right-hander out of Tecumseh (Okla.) High School admitted he had problems following those orders during Friday’s opening round of the 2010 American Legion World Series, primarily because of the Inland Northwest’s low humidity.
Yet he still managed to put on a pitching performance as dominant as any in recent history in leading the Outlaws to an 18-2 rout of Chesapeake (Va.) at Avista Stadium.
Hill, a 6-foot, 200-pounder, allowed only three hits – two of them of the infield variety – and struck out 15 in just six innings of work as Midwest City (62-9) advanced to today’s 5 p.m. winner’s-bracket showdown against Moline, Ill., by unmercifully hammering Chesapeake (29-7) in a game that was shortened to seven innings by the 10-run rule.
Hill’s 15 strikeouts were the most recorded in the ALWS in a seven-inning game. And he didn’t get to pitch the seventh inning after teammates Dalton Bernardi and Alex Polston each drove in three runs to help stake him to such a huge lead.
“He was just outstanding again today,” said Midwest City manager Doug Weese. “He’s been that way since early in the year when he was having trouble getting out of the first or second inning of games.”
The problem back then, Weese explained, was that Hill was showing up on the mound not sweating it – literally.
“We noticed he was coming in without having broken a sweat,” Weese added. “He has kind of a laid-back personality, anyway, and he just wasn’t getting ready. So we told him he needed to come in hot, sweaty and ready to go. And since then he’s been like what you saw today.”
Against Chesapeake (29-7), Hill was mesmerizing in giving up just three hit and allowing only one ball – Josh Carter’s run-scoring single in the first – to leave the infield.
“Everything he threw was working,” Outlaws catcher Taylor Hawkins said of Hill, who struck out nine of the last 10 batters he faced. “He just stays cool and plays the game. Even when they score runs off him, he just stays focused, and comes back strong.”
According to Weese, the team was trying to honor Hill with a fitting nickname early in the year.
“We were lightheartedly looking at calling him something like Flying Eagle or Running Water,” Weese said. “But we finally settled on Snake, because of how much his curveball moves.
“Then, about four games into the season I was kidding with him and said, ‘You know what? You’re a bull snake.’ He asked what a bull snake was, and I told him it was a cross between a bulldog and a rattlesnake, and it was perfect, because he’s just that tough. I mean, nothing bothers him. He’s got ice water in his veins.”
Which can also make it hard to sweat.
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