There are times in life when a lot is a great thing. Lots of money, lots of friends, lots of time, lots of patience… a lot can be a good thing.
However, when a baseball team leaves a lot of runners stranded on base, a lot can be devastating, and that was the case for West Holmes in the Div. II sectional baseball opener against Meadowbrook Monday, May 8 in Byesville.
West Holmes scored a run in the first inning, but left guys scattered everywhere on base, setting a trend that would see them strand 10 total base runners, a huge number in a game where runs were at a premium.
Despite a last-inning rally, the Knights could not push across another run, and fell to the Colts 2-1, knocking them out of the state tournament in the opening round.
This game was a contest of two very evenly matched teams. West Holmes came in at 13-11, while Meadowbrook sported a 12-11 mark. Meadowbrook was voted the district’s four-seed while the Knights earned the six seed, putting them on the road. Both teams, featured solid pitching, and it became apparent early on that scoring was going to be a tough task.
The Knights got things heated up right off the bat, when Slade Barnes drew a walk and advanced to second on Trenton Yoder’s single to left. After Jake Donaldson struck out, Drew Campbell hit an infield single to load the bases, and Brendan Bridenthal’s ground-out to second plated the Knights’ only run of the night. Shane Jones then clocked a towering, long fly ball to left that was caught for the final out of the inning.
The Colts answered with a tying run in the bottom of the first, and then West Holmes starter Kendrick Wagler and Meadowbrook’s lanky freshman Logan Fox dug in and got tough. They matched zeroes through the next three innings, but in the fifth the walls would start to shake for the Knights, and it was created by an error.
A botched ground ball started the inning, and Garrett Clendenning’s well-placed attempted bunt ended up in no-man’s land between the mound, first and second base for a hit. Wade Urdak stroked a single to left to load the bases, spelling the end of the night for Wagler. On came senior Jake Donaldson, who was asked to pull a giant Houdini to escape trouble.
He almost did.
Ben Davis hit a towering fly to left and scored the runner from third, but the play wasn’t rife with controversy. The Knights appealed that the runner had left early, and after a lengthy discussion, the runner was ruled safe.
“Kendrick threw well and Jake pitched a whale of a game in a tough situation,” said West Holmes coach Bill Pim. “I felt really good about getting out of that with only one run scoring.”
Now down a run with time running out, the Knights had to respond. They went 1-2-3 in the sixth, and the Colts threatened again in the bottom of the inning with a one-out triple off of the glove of a sprinting Danny Drummond in right. Again, Donaldson showed some great poise, working out of trouble by getting a huge strikeout, giving his team a chance.
The Knights’ seventh started to take shape when Barnes slapped a one-out single and Yoder followed suit. After Donaldson was retired, it was down to Drew Campbell, who worked the count full before taking ball four, loading the bases.
Bridenthal strode to the plate looking for that key hit, and quickly worked the count to 2-0. The third offering from Fox was a very low fastball that was called a strike. Instead of 3-0, the count was 2-1, and Bridenthal fouled a pitch back before grounding out to second to end the game with the Knights unable to come up with a big hit when they needed one.
“We did everything we needed to do to win a ball game, but what it really came down to was we left a ton of guys on base but couldn’t come up with any key hits all night long,” Pim said. “You just can’t leave that many guys on base and hope to win a tight game. That has been an issue for us all season long, and it bit us. Baseball can be a tough game sometimes. This is a game of getting opportunities and taking advantage of them, and we were unable to do that. It’s a tough way to go out.”
To make mattes even worse, both John Glenn, the number three seed, and Minerva, the number two seed, were both defeated, opening the door wide open for a lower seed to progress deep into the tournament.
“Yeah, that makes it even tougher to swallow,” Pim said. “It’s a game we could have won, and felt we should have won. With those top seeds getting knocked off its anyone’s game.
“If you had told me we would give up just two runs in the game, I would have said that we were in great shape. I really felt like we could push across some runs, but we just didn’t”
Because of the numbers left on base, one of those teams vying to cruise through the districts is not the Knights, who three nights later fell in their final game of the year, dropping a 5-1 game to Mt. Vernon in a game that again saw them struggle to plate runs. The lone tally came on a monstrous shot far over the left field wall by Campbell.
The loss dropped West Holmes back to 13-13 to end the season.