With huge district title implications at stake against rival Byrd, Airline couldn’t have asked for anyone better to rely on than its seasoned ace.

UL Monroe signee Kyle Backofen delivered one of his best performances this season, holding the Yellow Jackets to just two hits in a convincing 9-1 win. The lefty struck out seven in five innings and saw Byrd (16-8, 6-2 District 1-5A) score an unearned run thanks to two errors in the third.

“Kyle looked really good tonight,” Vikings coach Toby Todd said. “He was sharp, threw a lot of strikes, got big outs.”

It was just the kind of outing Airline (19-4, 5-1) has come to expect from a pitcher who began his career closing games as a freshman and quickly grew comfortable in high-pressure situations. Backofen appeared to only get stronger, retiring the last seven batters he faced and striking out the first three hitters in the Yellow Jackets’ order to breeze through the fifth inning.

They still made things tough for Backofen, who couldn’t follow his mantra of a quick first inning. Steele Netterville fouled off several two-strike pitches before flying out to center, and Backofen credited Byrd’s hitters for making him work hard all night.

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