Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Hernando High

Kilbourne comes up ‘aces’

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The stat sheet says plenty about Kyle Kilbourne’s senior season.

On the mound for Hernando, the right-hander achieved the county Triple Crown, going 9-2 to pace the local circuit in wins while compiling the county’s finest earned run average (1.12) and highest strikeout total (72).

But what may speak greater volumes about the newest Hernando Today Player of the Year are his motivation and mentality.

Scripted underneath the bill of his hat was the name of Justin Zimmerman, a good friend and classmate battling leukemia.

“That was huge looking at his name before every game and knowing I had something to play for, and knowing how lucky I was,” said Kilbourne, who added that he played the season in honor of Zimmerman. “I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Thinking about him every time I stepped on the field really motivated me.”

On a team that lost eight regulars to graduation from the previous year, when the Leopards advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth straight season, Kilbourne’s experience as a part-time player in 2013 essentially made him the most-tenured returnee.

The onus was on him, as well as senior catcher Austin Treverton, to guide a club that hadn’t collectively logged much varsity action.

Kilbourne’s grasp of the team-first approach was evident when he spoke about Hernando’s Class 5A, Region II quarterfinal loss to Sunlake.

He was the hard-luck loser in that 2-1 defeat, victimized by two unearned runs in his seven innings of work, yielding three hits and a walk against 10 strikeouts.

Though he posted one of his team’s three hits on the night out of the cleanup spot, and his courtesy runner scored the Leopards’ only run, Kilbourne shouldered his share of the blame.

“I’m part of the offense, too,” Kilbourne said. “I didn’t do as well as I could have.”

His thoughts on being named Player of the Year reflected that selfless approach.

“It means a lot. I’ve worked for it ever since my freshman days,” Kilbourne said. “I’ve been working hard. It really paid off this year.

“Obviously I can’t do it without my team. It was one of the better Hernando teams this year. All the credit goes to the team and Coach (Tim) Sims and my family for supporting me.”

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The blemish of falling short in his final prep contest couldn’t stain the season he pieced together this spring.

Over 69 innings, he permitted only 51 hits and 12 walks. He made 11 starts and completed seven, notching a pair of shutouts. He even had a save.

A third baseman when not pitching, he finished 10th in the county in hitting behind a .311 average, to go with six doubles, two home runs and 19 RBI.

The Florida Athletic Coaches Association ended up naming him the District 10 Player of the Year and selecting him to participate in its All-Star Classic.

“Kilbourne was a difference-maker this past year for us,” said Sims, Hernando’s veteran headman. “He did a solid job his junior year with the opportunities he had. But his senior year, he was that cat.”

Over the previous two years, Kilbourne had appeared in a combined 22 varsity games, and totaled just 26 plate appearances.

As a pitcher he had a respectable junior campaign, going 3-3 with a 3.42 ERA in nine appearances. However, he was buried behind aces Brandon Lawson and Trae Ratliff.

With those two gone, Hernando’s chances of maintaining its recent success hinged on his ability to step to the forefront.

“I didn’t really think about it in that way,” Kilbourne said. “Last year I was fortunate to get as much playing time as I did and this year Coach Sims stressed with the seniors that this was our time to shine.

“We went into the season with the mentality that we’ve got to work hard to get where we want to get. I think everybody played an equal role in our success.”

The Leopards collected their fourth district title in five years when they won the 5A-District 7 Tournament.

Kilbourne out-dueled Central’s Thomas Sorrentino in the semifinals, going the distance in a 2-1 victory. In the final versus Pasco, he went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI.

“People had their doubts about us, saying we didn’t have the same amount of talent (as previous years),” Kilbourne said. “It was all building up. This team had a lot to prove and we proved all the doubters wrong and did what we were supposed to do.”

Now Kilbourne will attend Nova Southeastern University, walking on with the Division II Sharks.

“I really love the coach,” Kilbourne said. “The coach was recruiting me. I thought it was a great fit for me.

“The recruiting process happened for me a little late. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get (a scholarship), but there’ll be opportunities to get one in the next three years.”

In the meantime, Kilbourne can walk away from Hernando knowing he played his part in keeping the Leopards’ winning ways alive.

“He had some big shoes to fill,” Sims said, “and he stepped right into them and filled them perfectly.”

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

By the numbers: Kyle Kilbourne

Pitching

YR GP CG IP H R ER BB K W L ERA

So 01 00 00.2 02 03 03 01 01 00 01 31.50

Jr 09 01 28.2 31 18 14 11 19 03 03 3.42

Sr 12 07 69.0 51 17 11 12 72 09 02 1.12

Totals 22 08 98.1 84 38 28 24 92 12 06 1.99

Hitting

YR GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG

So 02 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 .000

Jr 20 22 02 05 01 00 00 07 .227

Sr 28 90 14 28 06 00 02 19 .311

Totals 50 112 16 33 07 00 02 26 .295

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