Charleston Catholic's Connor Golden (17) slides safely into home after Buffalo catcher Matt Harrison dropped the ball.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Both sides got pretty much what they expected - or feared - Friday night.Kiefer Hovorka fired a five-inning two-hitter and struck out nine as Charleston Catholic blanked Buffalo 10-0 in its home baseball opener at the University of Charleston's Triana Field.Hovorka flirted with the upper reaches of an early-season pitch count, but allowed only four baserunners in going the distance. Six of his nine punchouts came on called third strikes."I kept them guessing,'' Hovorka said. "All three of my pitches were working pretty well, and they were just swinging and missing.''A solid effort from Hovorka was a pretty safe bet, since he carried a 7-3 record and 2.39 ERA last year in earning first-team all-state honors, and fanned 93 in 671/3 innings. A complete game, however, went right down to the wire."He was on a 70-pitch count,'' said Irish coach Bill Mehle, "and I believe he threw 69. He had 13 pitches left going into the last inning and we were debating that. I was going to leave it up to [pitching coach Will Bobinger]. This time of year, we're just trying to build capacity. Plus, the fact that [Hovorka] was on the Civic Center floor less than a week ago.''Hovorka, a starter on the Irish basketball team, played in the Class A state finals last Saturday. He also went 2-for-3 with an RBI Friday to lead Catholic's hitting attack on a chilly, mid-30-degree evening.
"Just try to make sure you're loosened up pretty well before you go out and go full speed,'' Hovorka said. "You've got to be in pretty good shape.''The Irish (2-1) only had five hits off Buffalo pitching, but made them count.Andy Hoyer stroked a two-run single in the first inning and Connor Golden laced a three-run triple in the third when a Buffalo outfielder misjudged his deep fly ball. Bison starter Lucas Jividen walked four and hit two in two-plus innings.The rebuilding Bison, who spent much of last year in the Gazette's Class A state ratings, also committed four errors, leading to three unearned runs. Veteran coach Jimmy Tribble could probably see it coming."We've got too many guys who haven't played and a catcher who's never caught before in his life,'' Tribble said. "You just don't take things too seriously. You relax with it and let them grow and play about 25, 30 games and maybe by the end of the year ... I'm disappointed that we had our chances to get out of some innings but we gave them runs by just botching plays, dropping the ball and not paying attention."I told our kids what we'll try to do is get a 1-2-3 inning, then back that up with two in a row, then maybe we can get to three without dropping the ball or throwing it around. I'm not throwing my 1-2-3 pitchers, either, especially in this kind of temperature because I don't have my arms ready. My basketball guys aren't ready, whereas [Catholic] has a veteran team, and I've got to develop some arms.''Sophomore Beau Whittington worked two hitless innings of relief for Buffalo. The only Bison hitters to reach Hovorka were Blaik Caplinger and Levi Jordan, both with singles.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.