BROOKSVILLE - A day after Land O' Lakes batters strafed Nature Coast Technical for 10 hits, it was a different story Wednesday night in the second round of the Pasco-Hernando Farm Bureau Insurance Baseball Classic at Hernando High.
Behind an air-tight defense that converted 28 chances without a miscue, Hernando senior right-hander Kyle Kilbourne twirled a commanding complete-game, three-hit shutout against Land O' Lakes, 3-0.
By mixing his pitches and speeds, Kilbourne (5-0) faced 24 batters, or three over the minimum, permitting only senior designated hitter Liam Heaney's double in the second inning and a pair of seventh-inning singles by junior Alex Reynolds and frosh Max Law.
Despite the two hits, Kilbourne enticed Heaney into a pitcher's best friend - a 6-4-3 double play - before fanning Gator (7-6) catcher Cameron Hilgenberg for the third time to end the game.
Before Reynolds' single to center to open the seventh, Kilbourne had retired 11 batters in a row following a one-out free pass to Dylan Leopard in the third inning.
In all, Kilbourne chained the Gator bats to the tune of a 3-for-23 evening (.130 batting average) behind 10 strikeouts.
For the second straight night, HHS' defense sparkled.
Leopard senior second sacker Brad Platt turned in two fine assists in the third inning on back-to-back plays. Sophomore first sacker Andres Cabrera robbed Reynolds of an infield hit in the fourth feeding Kilbourne covering first base for the first out.
Offensively, the hosts picked their spots against a trio of Gator pitchers.
With two outs and no one aboard in the third off Land O' Lakes starter Andrew O'Brien, senior Austin Treverton singled to center.
Junior Justin Young, who yanked a grand slam on Tuesday against Fivay, drew a four-pitch walk.
Kilbourne helped himself with a RBI single to left plating courtesy runner Garrett Sims, 1-0.
In the fifth, HHS doubled its cushion.
Treverton, who came into the tournament hitting .407, reached for the fifth time in six trips to the plate as he was plunked by an O'Brien (1-2) pitch.
Young followed with a looping single down the left-field line.
At this point, veteran Gator skipper Calvin Baisley opted for reliever Brett Renner. Kilbourne immediately reached on an infield single to load the sacks.
Though Cabrera grounded into a double play, Sims easily scampered home for the second time, 2-0.
In the sixth frame off the Gators' third pitcher, Reynolds, junior Tyler Ledington reached on a bunt single before advancing to second on an overthrow.
Back-to-back passed balls against Hilgenberg permitted Ledington to race home with a key insurance run.
Afterward, the HHS defense was the main topic.
"I felt I did all right," pointed out the 18-year-old Platt. "I got one hit, but I could have done better at the plate."
The key to game, according to Platt, was "Kyle threw a great game. He threw goose eggs at them. It's a good tournament win. We're seeing different competition and it shows we can play."
Treverton had a bird's eye view of Kilbourne's efforts behind the dish.
"Kyle didn't have his 'grade-A' stuff, but it was close," detailed the 18-year-old Treverton. "He did a nice job hitting his spots. It was a pretty dang big win. Our defense was completely focused. I thought Brad (Platt) had an outstanding game."
"Tonight, I felt great," admitted the 17-year-old Kilbourne, who came into the game with a microscopic 0.81 earned run average through 26 innings. "I thought all three of my pitches we working tonight. I'm my own worst critic, but I feel I'm getting stronger as the season progresses and so is the team."
Veteran Leopard mentor Tim Sims acknowledged two of the biggest facets in his team's success this season: pitching and defense.
"I saw an outstanding pitched game by Kyle," emphasized Sims. "But more importantly our defense played well behind him. Kyle fed off of Cabrera's outstanding pick behind the bag. And Brad made back-to-back excellent plays in the third inning."
In analyzing the Leopard offense, "So far, we've been opportunistic and taken advantage of what's been presented," said Sims. "Our guys have been battling up there, pitch by pitch."
In solving always-dangerous Land O' Lakes, "That's an outstanding ball club. They've got a coach whose been doing this for 30 years. He's knows his stuff," said Sims. "They're my pick to click down the road. But what I like most about us is everyone is playing their roles right now."
Behind its seventh straight victory and second tourney win at Emerson Field, Hernando (13-1) faces Pasco at Sunlake Thursday at 7 p.m. in one semifinal.
The other semifinal pits two Hernando County teams - Springstead visiting Central Thursday at 7 p.m. at Bears' Park.
In Wednesday's other tilt at Emerson Field, NCT captured its first tourney nod behind junior Vito Tambasco Jr.'s late two-run homer to seal a 7-2 win over Fivay.
Hernando 3, Land O' Lakes 0,
123 456 7 R H E
HER 001 011 0 - 3 9 0
LOL 000 000 0 - 0 3 1
LOL - O'Brien, Renner (5), Reynolds (6) and Hilgenberg.
HER - Kilbourne and Treverton.
W - Kilbourne (5-0). L - O'Brien (1-2).
2B - LOL: Heaney; HER: Platt.
Records - Land O' Lakes (7-6), Hernando (13-1).
Pasco-Hernando Farm Bureau Insurance Baseball Classic
Hernando 7, Fivay 0
Land O' Lakes 5, Nature Coast Technical 0
Sunlake 6, Wesley Chapel 5
Central 6, Gulf 0
Bishop McLaughlin 3, Mitchell 2
at Weeki Wachee
Wiregrass Ranch 14, Weeki Wachee 1 (5)
Springstead 12, Zephyrhills 1
Nature Coast Technical 7, Fivay 2
Hernando 3, Land O' Lakes 0
Pasco 11, Ridgewood 0
Pasco 5, Sunlake 4
Mitchell 12, Gulf 0
Central 6, Bishop McLaughlin 2
at Weeki Wachee
Weeki Wachee 8, Zephyrhills 6
Springstead 3,Wiregrass Ranch 2
Nature Coast vs. Wesley Chapel, 4 p.m.
Fivay vs. Wesley Chapel, 7 p.m.
Sunlake vs. Land O' Lakes, 4 p.m.
Hernando vs. Pasco, 7 p.m.
Bishop McLaughlin vs. Wiregrass Ranch, 4 p.m.
Central vs. Springstead, 7 p.m.
at Weeki Wachee
Gulf vs. Zephyrhills, 4 p.m.
Weeki Wachee vs. Mitchell, 7 p.m.