Kevin “Bull Snake” Hill, who set an American Legion World Series record when he fanned 15 batters in six innings on opening day, was just as effective if slightly less spectacular Monday afternoon.
Hill scattered five hits and struck out seven in nine innings as Midwest City, Okla., stayed alive with a 7-1 win over Las Vegas at Avista Stadium.
The right-hander with enough movement on his ball and tenacity to earn him his nickname, was protecting a 2-0 lead entering the seventh inning, which is when teammate No. 9 hitter Caleb Price, the designated hitter, sealed the game with a three-run home that pushed the lead to 6-0.
“He’s a heck of a pitcher,” Price said. “We play real confident behind him. He throws lots of strikes, has great off-speed. We love playing behind him. He’s got a bright future.”
Hill calls Price “Clutch,” because in addition to the big home run, Price had three hits in backing Hill’s three-hit gem on Friday, an 18-2 victory over Chesapeake, Va.
Price is hitting just under .500 while playing in six of the Outlaws’ nine postseason games, including 4 of 9 in the World Series. However, he had just one RBI before dropping a Dakota Roehl pitch just over the fence in left field.
“He started me off with fastballs but got behind in the count,” Price said. “He battled back, threw me a little slider on the edge and I happened to get a good barrel on it. I had runners on bases and we needed those runs to seal the win. I just hit and ran. It happened to go out. I was thinking double but I’ll take a home run.”
The Outlaws (64-10) play at 4 p.m. Tuesday against the winner of Monday nightcap between Roseburg, Ore., and Eden Prairie, Minn. The Outlaws will either have to defeat Roseburg and then Eden Prairie on Tuesday or beat the Minnesota team twice to earn the title.
Price, who is 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, doesn’t mind batting ninth, which might give him an edge.
“You see a lot of straight stuff,” he said. “I batted two-hole for my (high school) team this year. Previously I batted down. I see it as an advantage, to score some runs deep in the lineup, it’s always a bonus to get your bottom guys on base or knocking guys in.”
Midwest City coach Doug Weese said, “They kind of look past him because of his size but he’s got tremendous bat speed. … He’s got 5-6 home runs on the year.”
Price has five home runs, after hitting 10 as a senior in high school.
Price, an infielder who will play at NAIA Oklahoma City College next year, is the designated hitter because he’s behind Wichita State recruit Josh Halbert at third and Jason Nelson, a sophomore at Rose College (Midwest City), at second.
Weese just knows he’s got to find a place for Price.
“That kid, he’s always ready to play,” he said. “He’s been kind of a role player the last month or so, but I don’t care if he’s on the bench or on the field, he’s always ready to go.
“I’d rather try to bring a guy down a little bit than push him up. That guy, you’ve go to bring him down a little. He’s just always ready to play, looking for an opportunity.”
That leads to a nickname Price doesn’t enjoy quite as much.
“My coach calls me “Mouth,” he said. “He says I talk a little bit. I don’t have a set nickname, (Hill) calls me Clutch. I like that one.”