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Hoben, Embry making life as a hitter a miserable experience

[5/13/03]As he sat in the visitors’ dugout Monday, watching his team stretch and throw before practice, Porters Chapel Academy coach Randy Wright struggled to find the right words to describe his pitching staff.

Part of it, he admitted, was not wanting to reveal too much to Academy-A championship series opponent Heidelberg, who the Eagles will host tonight at 7 in Game 1 of the best-of-three series.

Another stumbling block, though, was finding something to say that hadn’t already been said about a group that has dominated opponents all season long.

The Eagles have ripped off 22 straight wins and outscored opponents 290-73 this season. PCA obliterated Riverdale and Franklin in its first two playoff series, outscoring them 45-3 to reach the Academy-A finals for the second time in three seasons.

Despite the impressive offensive numbers, though, the backbone of the Eagles’ run has been their pitching.

PCA has three pitchers Andrew Embry, Ryan Hoben, and Joseph Ivey with ERAs under 2.00. The trio has combined for 261 strikeouts and only 71 walks in 179 2/3 innings, and accounted for 25 of PCA’s 27 wins.

“I was looking at their stats today, and it has been extremely impressive watching those guys, especially against the competition we’ve faced,” Wright said, noting that the Eagles haven’t lost to an Academy-A team this season and have beaten several teams ranked in the top 10. “They have shut everybody down, and it has been a lot of fun watching them do that.”

In the playoffs, Embry (9-1) and Hoben (10-1) have taken their game to another level. In four games, the lefty-righty combination has teamed up to allow just 15 hits, five walks, and three runs. In 28 innings, they have 32 strikeouts.

Getting plenty of run support has made pitching easier, Hoben said. The Eagles have scored at least 10 runs in three of their four playoff games and are averaging 10 runs per game for the season.

“We’ve been scoring a lot of runs, and that helps a lot. Even though we don’t need them, it’s better knowing you don’t have to go out and strike out everybody,” Hoben said.

Embry and Hoben haven’t struck out everybody. Sometimes, it just seems that way.

They’ve been so dominant in the playoffs that the only throwing Ivey (6-0, 1.93 ERA in 43 1/3 innings) has done is warming up at the end of games, in case either Hoben or Embry were too tired to finish.

“Having two guys like that, two number one guys that you can run out there, has been phenomenal,” Wright said, adding that Ivey has been just as good when he has pitched. “(Ivey is) better than most teams’ number one. We’re just fortunate enough that he’s our number three.”

For the season, Hoben has slightly better stats than Embry. He has 107 strikeouts, 21 walks, and a 0.90 ERA in 69 innings, while Embry has 99 strikeouts, 22 walks, and a 1.24 ERA in 67 innings.

That means little to them, though. They insist there’s no competition or one-upsmanship between them, and cite the team’s chemistry as one of the major reasons for its success.

What matters most is wins, and with two more solid efforts the Eagles can claim their first state championship.

“As long as we win, I don’t care what the stats are,” Embry said.