Every year the Ohio Cardinal Conference sets up its schedule so league games are played in back-to-back fashion on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
On Tuesday, March 28, the West Holmes Knights took advantage of a great pitching performance and timely hitting to carve out a nice 8-2 win that saw starting pitcher Kendrick Wagler dominate. It also saw the Generals hand out some free outs and issue some free passes that hurt.
On the return trip to Wooster High School the next night, the tables were turned, and the Generals were the team that got a tremendous mound effort form senior Shane Williamson, who scattered six hits in the 11-1 five-inning win for Wooster.
Much like the first game, this time around it was West Holmes that played sloppy baseball, issuing free passes while kicking it around on defense.
“We struggled all-around tonight,” said west Holmes coach Bill Pim. “You can’t start out a game with a walk, because walks will kill you every time, and we struggled to make plays on defense. In the games we have won this year we have thrown strikes and played solid defensively, but in the games we have lost, it has looked a lot like what we got tonight.”
Wooster picked up its first win of the season and also marked new head coach Steve Young’s first varsity career win.
“It’s nice to get that first one out of the way, both for me and the team,” Young said. “Our coaching staff talked to Shane last night after we got back from West Holmes, and told him we really needed him to step up big for us. He came right out, rose to the challenge and threw a great game. We have an inexperienced group, so we wanted to get that first win and get a little confidence going, and we really put together a nice win tonight. This is a nice step toward what we are trying to accomplish this year.”
The Knights are now 2-2 and have looked both brilliant in their wins and ugly in their losses. Finding some consistency is on the top of Pim’s to-do list.
“I wish I could put my finger on how we can look so sharp one night and struggle so badly the next,” Pim said. “Give credit to their kid, he threw hard and he threw strikes, and he mixed his stuff. This is a learning process for us, and we are trying to teach these kids how to win, and come to play with a confidence every time you take the field. It’s a work in progress.”
Wooster has faced the same type of dilemma. New head coach Steve Young was seeking his first career win after the Generals dropped a pair to open the campaign. He got it with a big effort from Williamson and some solid hitting throughout.
“I felt like we needed to win this game, in order to back on track, and I wanted to face that kind of pressure,” Williamson said. ‘It feels great to help my team get back on track, and my guys really supported me tonight.
Support was the key, and the Generals pounded out a five-spot in the bottom of the first after the Knights had taken a 1-0 lead off of singles by Slade Barnes and Drew Campbell and Brendan Bridenthal’s double.
Calvin Blair drew a walk off of starter and loser Bridenthal, and after he moved up, scored on Garrett Beilke’s single. Michael Cicolani walked and Mike Merritt’s single scored another run. A costly error, another walk and a single from Nick Johnston, and the Generals had carved out a 6-1 lead.
Two more runs in the third and then three in the fourth, spurred by hits from Cicolani and Johnston, was plenty of support for Williamson.
As for the Knights win over Wooster, Pim had high praise for Wagler, who stepped in and delivered another masterful performance.
He was great last year, but I think he has gotten even better,” Pim said of Wagler. “He is throwing harder, and he was throwing harder in the seventh inning that he was at the beginning of the game. He was throwing everything for strikes, and when he is on the mound it is easy to coach because everyone can relax because guys are in the game with him throwing strikes the way he does.”
In that game, Wagler scattered three hits, struck out six and walked just one, while the top two hitters in the Knights’ line-up, Slade Barnes and Trenton Yoder, accounted for five of the runs. Erik Hanna delivered the big knock in a five-0run second inning, hammering a bases-loaded double to the wall in right-center to clear the bases and give Wagler all the run support he would need.
“That ball was crushed, and it came at a big time when we needed something to give us some breathing room,” Pim said.
In the early season, with two teams trying to find an identity, both teams saw the good, the bad and the ugly of early season baseball.
“We’ve got time to get better, and I think we will,” Young said. “I think both teams found out some good things and bad things about themselves this week, and I’m sure just like us, they will want to see more consistency as the year progresses.”