The West Holmes Knights baseball team didn’t just score runs in their Wednesday, April 26 win over Mansfield Senior.
They scored touchdowns.
The Knights racked up 28 runs in just four innings, an average of seven runs per frame, including seven in the second and nine in both the third and fourth innings, en route to a 28-0 victory.
That, coupled with the 6-0 victory over the Tygers the night before in Mansfield, pushed West Holmes’ record to 11-9 on the year, and Bill Pim’s crew has won eight of its last 10.
“It’s been fun,” Pim said of the Knights’ turnaround this year. “Our pitching has been a key part of it, but more than that, we are developing a winning mentality. We are learning how to win close gamers and how to compete when things get tight at the end of a close game. In those situations you have to play loose, you have to want the ball hit to you and you have to want to step up. You have to go into every game believing you are going to win, not hoping to win but expecting to win. We are getting there.”
In the past three games along the Knights have gotten top-notch pitching performances from three different pitchers. In the 28-0 win over Senior, Kiowa Looney went the distance, striking out seven, walking one and allowing two hits. The night before in the 6-0 win, Brendan Bridenthal tossed a brilliant two-hitter, at one point striking out a mind-boggling 12-of-13 Tygers batters, and racking up 14 strikeouts for the game while giving up just two walks. In the game before that, Jake Donaldson twirled a gem, giving up just two hits to Norwayne in a 9-0 Knights’ victory.
The pitching has been dynamite, and Pim and his staff have enjoyed watching as those three along with Kendrick Wagler have gotten better and better. The foursome has gotten to the point where Pim may have the enjoyable problem of having too much quality pitching heading into tournament, a situation that really is not a problem at all.
“These guys are starting to believe in each other,” Pim said.
They believed early and often in the 28-0 victory. Slade Barnes opened the floodgates immediately, using his speed to beat out an infield hit. Drew Campbell and Shane Jones later had RBI hits, and West Holmes led by three. Looney settled in and went back to work, retiring the Tygers quickly, and the Knights came in and hit the ball all over the yard. When they weren’t recording hits, Senior was booting it around the yard, and a 3-0 lead quickly grew to 12-0. Trenton Yoder’s two-run single back through the middle, Donaldson’s RBI single and Bridger Cline’s sacrifice fly were part of the nine-run inning that saw the Tygers commit five errors. Brody Beckett drove home a run with his first of three hits, Bridenthal and Jones singled in runs and Gavin Sheldon doubled in a pair as part of the nine-run third. Danny Drummond doubled in a pair, then added an RBI single in the fourth. Wagler hammered a ball to the wall in left. The hits and the runs just kept coming.
“We hit the ball a ton, but it as nice to see us take advantage early and establish a lead,” Pim said. “When Slade gets on base, we are a very different team. He ignites us, and makes us so much more dangerous.”
While the Knights had an easy time of game two versus Senior, game one saw them leading just 1-0 in the fifth. West Holmes had again left far too many runner stranded on base and that kept the game within striking distance.
“So many guys left on base, you could have fried an egg on my head I was so hot,” Pim said with a chuckle. West Holmes finally got some insurance in the second, scoring two when a walk and a sacrifice bunt allowed Barnes to single in a run, steal second and score on Trenton Yoder’s single. West Holmes then blew it open with three in the seventh. Bridenthal singled, Cline doubled, Erik Hanna produced sacrifice fly, and after an error and a walk saw Yoder deliver another RBI single.
But it was Bridenthal’s performance that had his coach talking.
“An unbelievable performance,” Pim said of Bridenthal. “He struck out the side in the second inning. He struck out the side in the third inning. He struck out the side in the fourth inning. He struck out the side in the fifth inning. He allowed one hit during that stretch. He has swing and miss stuff, and he is growing like crazy right now as a pitcher. But he isn’t the only guy dialed in right now. All of our pitchers are really throwing well. Jake beat a good Madison team and then beat Norwayne. This was Kiowa’s third straight great outing. I don’t know how we are going to do this in tournament, but it is a great problem to have.”
As the Knights continue to grow and gain confidence, they seem to be coming together at the very best time of the year, right before tournament play.