Every team’s long tournament run is spiced up with one of those games where things don’t go very well, yet they come away the victor.
That was exactly what top-seeded West Holmes experienced on Tuesday, May 14 when they hosted Morgan in one of those top-seed versus low-seed contests that everyone assumes will be a cake walk for the higher seed.
It wasn’t pretty at times, and Knights head coach Bill Pim wasn’t all too pleased following West Holmes’ 10-2 victory. It did two things: It helped his team ease past any tournament jitters, and it advanced them, which is the only thing that really matters at this stage of the game.
“We really didn’t play very well, and you give them credit,” Pim said of Morgan. “They hit the ball and put the ball in play. But I didn’t think we played very well. We made too many errors, which is uncharacteristic for us, and I don’t like errors. We were too sloppy and have some things to clean up.”
The game began in about as much of a bizarre fashion as one could imagine. Morgan lead-off man Sam Hager hit a grounder down the first base line that caromed off the bag, allowing him to reach. A sacrifice bunt turned ugly when the Knights didn’t get anyone out, and starting pitcher Kendrick Wagler then hit Clayton Cook to load the bases with nobody out. Wagler then recorded a huge strike-out but walked in the game’s first run before finally getting a second strike-out and a ground out.
Somehow out of that melee, Morgan could plate just one run.
West Holmes quickly tied the score in its half of the first. Shane Jones led off with a walk, and Luke Vess and Wagler stroked back-to-back singles. But with runners on second and third and nobody out, the Knights squandered an opportunity to open up a lead on three shallow fly outs around a Zander Proper walk that loaded the bases.
Wagler took all of nine pitches to get through the second inning, striking out a pair. West Holmes came in and went to work.
With one out Nate Ginsburg singled, and Shane Jones raked a double to the wall in center. Vess drove in a run and reached base safely on a fielder’s choice, and Wager hit a bullet that went as a sacrifice fly before Shiloh Jones ripped a run-scoring single and Collin Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-1 in favor of the Knights.
Wagler nearly duplicated his second-inning performance and disposed of three Morgan batters quickly. West Holmes kept adding to its lead in the bottom of the inning.
Bridger Cline walked, and Chase Booth scorched a liner down the left-field line that was flagged down on a nice play by Adam Niceswanger. Ginsburg singled again, and Shane Jones followed suit to plate a run. Vess and Shiloh Jones both singled home runs, and the Knights appeared to be on the verge of running up a 10-run victory.
That was not to be as the bats went silent and the gloves failed during Morgan’s fifth inning after neither team scored in the fourth.
A foul pop was not caught behind home plate, but Wagler still got nine-hitter Riley Pierce to start the inning. Hager then smoked a double to center on a ball that Shane Jones misplayed badly. However, he was erased when he tried to advance to third on a ground ball to short, but Proper fired a strike to third to nail him for the second out. A single and a throwing error by Proper allowed Morgan to score to make it 8-2.
The Knights came up empty in their half of the fifth, and more hijinks ensued in the sixth. Wagler hit his second batter, prompting Pim to take the slow walk to the mound to remove him in favor of Ginsburg.
“[Wagler] wasn’t throwing as hard as he had been, and we talked about if someone got on of getting him out of there,” Pim said. “We’ve got guys to bring in, and it is silly not to bring them in. It’s a team game, and I’ll use as many pitchers as I have to in order to win a game.”
Ginsburg’s second pitch produced a shallow fly to right that Shiloh Jones made a nice running catch on, and with the runner straying off the bag, he fired to first, but the throw was wide and went to the fence. The ball was retrieved by Wagler, who was now at first base, and he threw a perfect strike to second, where Proper was waiting to apply the tag, but while the throw was there in plenty of time, Proper couldn’t secure the ball, and the runner somehow made it safely to second having made two large running blunders. Ginsburg then hit the next batter before retiring the final two on easy outs to move to the bottom of the sixth, where the Knights padded their lead.
With one out both Proper and Cline reached on infield singles, and Chase Booth’s hard grounder went right through the wickets at short, allowing a run to score. Shane Jones reached on an error to load the bases, and the Knights scored the easy way when a walk to the hard-hitting Vess scored a run. With the bases loaded, Wagler hit his third rocket of the game right to an outfielder, ending the threat with West Holmes leading 10-2.
Ginsburg got two quick outs, but Cook kept the game going by hammering a shot off the wall in center for a double. Ginsburg was able to slam the door by getting a ground out to short to secure the win.
Now at 22-2, West Holmes continues to march along to one of the school’s finest seasons in school history.
While it is often easy for a top seed to overlook a much lower seed, Pim said that wasn’t the case for his crew.
“We came ready to play, and you could tell they were fired up,” Pim said of his Knights. “[Morgan] is a 16-seed, but that is deceiving. That’s a pretty good baseball team. They are well-coached, and they play hard, so we didn’t take anything for granted.”