Madison Memorial junior Kole Kerkhoff’s familiarity with numerous players on the Madison West roster extends back to their days playing Little League and youth baseball.
Kerkhoff had that inside information in his hip pocket as he took the hill for Tuesday night’s Big Eight Conference start against Madison West at Mansfield Stadium.
The right-hander mixed fastballs, curveballs and changeups while throwing a two-hit shutout. He led the host Spartans to a 2-0 victory and dealt the Regents their first conference loss.
Kerkhoff held the Regents hitless for the first five innings during his seven-inning, 98-pitch outing. He said it was his first career shutout and complete game and likely the best game he’s thrown.
“My arm felt really good,” he said. “I was throwing harder. I had a lot of adrenaline going the last inning, so I kept it going. I wanted the complete game. The defense helped me out and made a lot of good plays.”
He outdueled senior left-hander Aiden Burgess, who gave up two runs in 5⅓ innings for the Regents (8-4 overall, 7-1 Big Eight).
“I have played a lot of games against the kids over there,” Kerkhoff said. “In my Little League career, I played with them or against them. I know a lot of those guys.”
Spartans coach Tim Richardson said Kerkhoff has been a surprise on the mound, winning a varsity spot during Memorial’s Florida trip at season’s start and becoming the team’s No. 2 starter behind senior Kyle Jungers, an Edgewood College commit.
“He’s been doing great things for us, throwing lots of strikes,” Richardson said of Kerkhoff. “He wasn’t as efficient as he usually is, but he was still under the (pitch) limit. He’s an unassuming looking kid and just does a nice job for us.”
Senior center fielder Jack Krumbach gave the Spartans (7-5, 5-3) the early advantage. Krumbach, a Xavier University commit, beat out an infield hit leading off the bottom of the first inning.
“I just try to get it on the ground and run, because I’m pretty fast,” Krumbach said.
Krumbach then raced to third on Burgess’ errant pickoff throw to first and scored on sophomore shortstop Kyle Yu’s RBI grounder to second.
“Pitchers worry about me over there because of my speed, but I guess it was just a wild throw,” Krumbach said.
Added Richardson: “He’s such a weapon for us in the leadoff spot. When he gets on, he’s basically going to be at third. He either steals the base or draws the throw. Stuff happens when he’s on the basepaths. He’s such an athlete.”
Senior first baseman Will Sprout, who had two hits, drove in the second run with a single to center in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The left-handed swinging Sprout, a Carroll University commit for baseball and football, worked an 0-2 count to 2-2 before he laced a fastball up the middle and ended Burgess’ outing.
“He pitched really well and he has been,” first-year Regents coach Mike Huie said of Burgess. “You give up two runs in 5⅓, you should win or you should be in the game, but it didn’t feel like it. It was nice to get a few runners on second, but I don’t think we got a runner on third the whole game.”
West didn’t advance a runner past second base — though it threatened late, putting two runners aboard in the sixth and seventh innings.
“We need to do a little better with our bats,” Huie said. “I think that’s the bottom line. We have lived on the edge for quite a while now, and at some point you are going to lose that way. It’s nice to learn how to win close games, but if you don’t score, it makes it very difficult.”
Huie said he was pleased with the way his team has started the season, but wants the Regents to demonstrate a hungry attitude in each game.
Coleman Robbins, a junior second baseman for the Regents, led off the sixth inning with a single.
The Regents had senior shortstop John Frehner on second and senior catcher and Missouri State commit Drake Baldwin at first with two outs in the sixth, but Krumbach made a sliding catch on senior first baseman Justin Grosse’s liner to center.
“I just got a good jump on it,” Krumbach said. “Right off the bat, I saw it well.”
Madison West had runners at first and second with one out in the seventh, but Kerkhoff worked out of the jam.
Spartans junior catcher Kyle Murphy celebrated his 17th birthday by reaching three times in three at-bats (a double and two walks) and making throws to cut down a couple Regents on the basepaths.
Madison West 000 000 0 - 0 2 2
Madison Memorial 100 001 x - 2 6 0
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Burgess (L; 5.1-6-2-2-1), MacKay (0.2-0-0-0-1); Kerkhoff (W; 7-2-0-5-5).
Leading hitters — MM: Sprout 2x3. 2B — Murphy.