KAU Kings win third; semifinals in sight

It wasn’t their best game of the Senior League World Series, but the KAU Kings still came away with their third victory in three games, defeating the U.S. Central region champions from Chicago by a score of 9-4 on Tuesday. With the win, KAU is now in great shape to advance to the semifinals on Friday.---- KAU now has just one game left in pool play, which will be today at 8 p.m. against the Latin American representative from Panama, which is also undefeated in its two games.---- With three victories, though, that game does not appear to be one the Kings need to win in order to advance. Kennett manager Todd Duerr says he hopes to be able to set up his pitching staff for the rest of the week, while also managing defense. If there is a need for a tiebreaker, it could come down to runs allowed per inning.---- That game will also provide the Kings the chance to fix the few mistakes they did make on Tuesday.---- “We had a couple bad innings, and the kids know it,” Duerr said. “They’ll get it straightened out. I have no worries about tomorrow.”---- Though the five run margin may indicate it was a comfortable win, the victory didn’t come as easy as it did on Monday, when they defeated Italy by mercy rule. All of the KAU scoring came in just the first and seventh innings.---- The Kings led off the game with four straight singles by Drew Jarmuz, Alex Pechin, Eric Duerr, and Joe Zirolli to score twice. Andrew Jones and Dan Garver added two more later in the inning and KAU took a 4-0 lead after its first at bat.---- Illinois chipped away, though. Zirolli struggled on the mound early, needing 29 pitches to get through the first, giving up two runs on just one hit. Two uncharacteristic KAU errors didn’t help.---- “In the bullpen I felt great,” Zirolli said. “I was hitting my spots in the bullpen, my breaking balls were breaking the way they were supposed to be. I got in there and I guess the nerves got to me, and I wasn’t throwing where I was supposed to be, and I know I didn’t feel myself. But, I battled through it and did whatever the team needed me to do.”---- Zirolli did settle down. He ended up pitching 3 1/3 innings and gave up just one more run in the third as Illinois got to within one.---- Throughout the middle innings, Illinois pitcher Quinn Snarkis held the Kings’ bats mostly in check, with help from a devastating slider. Even with adjustments in the batter’s box, KAU struggled to hit it.---- “I have never seen our order go down like they have all the way through the tournaments,” Duerr said.---- Luckily, KAU had Ryan Barrett.---- The closer, as the team calls him, came in to relieve Zirolli and stopped the Illinois offense. He went 2 2/3 innings and gave up just two hits.---- “Just throw strikes and stay around the zone,” Barrett said. “Ground ball outs are easy.”---- He did allow one run in the seventh, but by then, Illinois had dug itself too deep a hole.---- That’s because KAU scored five times in the top of the seventh and put the game out of reach. Seven consecutive batters reached base on six hits and an error.---- “One thing we found all the way through the tournament is through the sixth, seventh inning, their bats tend to come back alive and they rally around each other,” Duerr said.---- Tucker Reese came in to finish out the game on the mound as KAU remained undefeated in the World Series.---- Each Kings starter had at least one hit in the game, and the team had 16 in all. Garver was the one batter who seemed to have success throughout the night against Snarkis’ slider, as he went 3-for-4 with three singles to right field.---- “The ball was tailing inside to me and there’s not many lefties on this team, so it was different for most people, but I liked it,” Garver said. “I’m a pull hitter mostly, so I just took it to right.”--