VISALIA — David Hilyard homered and pitched an effective 4 1/3 innings, but Central California fell short 6-3 to host Visalia Blue at Riverway Sports Park on Monday.
Central California (2-2) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead starting with first baseman Preston King’s RBI single in the top of the first inning. He drove in Wyatt Bookout after he reached on a fielder’s choice.
“I didn’t really think of anything I didn’t really see anything,” King said. “All I wanted to do was get a hit … get runners in and just score for my team.”
Hilyard singled after Bookout and scored on a wild pitch later in the inning. Hilyard was 2-for-4 (half of the team’s total four hits) and delivered a moonshot to straightaway center field in the third inning. He scored two of the team’s three runs.
“The inning before I got a home run hit off me, so I was just going in trying to hit the ball really hard,” Hilyard said. “I kind of wanted to hit a home run, but I was also thinking I need to get a good, hard swing, make good contact and good results will happen.”
He also started for Central California and allowed six runs (three earned) over four-plus innings, while striking out three and walking two. Hilyard’s performance earned him the Ron Tellefsen Player of the Game award fulfilling one of his goals at the 2019 Major/60 Cal Ripken World Series.
“I went into this tournament trying to get at least one [player of the game award] because this is my last tournament in Cal Ripken and I was just trying to make it a good one for me,” Hilyard said.
Visalia Blue (4-0) scored in the first and added four more runs in the second inning. Visalia Blue’s Hunter Pruitt took Hilyard deep with a two-run homer and Jaxon Griffiths hit a two-run single.
Central California trailed 5-2 and got one back on Hilyard’s home run, but Visalia Blue made it a three-run game again when Sebastian Osejo hit his own solo shot to center field in the fifth.
Central California struggled mightily at the plate finishing with a tournament-high eight strikeouts and went down in order in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
“[Visalia Blue] got good pitching and play very good defense,” Central California coach Carlos Perez said. “You hit the ball they’re going to make the plays. The big difference between Visalia and the other teams is they play pretty clean baseball and they did that today.”
Central California concludes pool play with a game against Midwest Plains today at 2:30 p.m. at Riverway Sports Park. The team needs a win to have a chance to get into the championship bracket.
“Our team has to come together, they have to get hits, play great defense,” King said. “We just have to come together and get the win tomorrow.”