West Holmes head coach Bill Pim had to be rejoicing when his team defeated Indian Valley 5-4 on Tuesday, May 1 in Gnadenhutten.
After all, his Knights have lost a half-dozen one-run games in building a 7-10 record, so it had to feel good to finally get one, especially against one of the area’s top teams.
However, one would have to excuse him and his players for fearing a little bit of deja vu when the Braves came charging back in their final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. However, West Holmes was able to hang in there and capture the win.
Neither teams could find any hits when they needed them through the first four innings, but Indian Valley was consistently knocking on the door throughout off of West Holmes starter Kendrick Wagler.
Wagler was pulling magic tricks out of a hat like Harry Houdini, continually getting into and out of trouble.
It wouldn’t be until the top of the fifth inning that the Knights would finally break the scoreless tie. Shane Jones doubled, and Wagler bunted him over to third, but the Braves threw the ball away and allowed Jones to score the game’s first run.
Indian Valley rallied right back in the bottom of the inning. Braeden Lehigh started the inning with a single, and after Dalton Burcher forced Lehigh at second, Cade Williams struck out but reached when the ball eluded the catcher. With runners now on the corners and two outs, Wagler again danced out of trouble, getting a ground out to third-baseman Zander Proper.
The Knights went quickly in the top of the sixth, and the Braves finally got to Wagler to tie the score, but it could have been a lot worse.
Mason McKeown started things off with a single and an error in the outfield, which allowed him to move to second. Cade Williams’ fly out to right moved him over to third base, and Myers stroked a single just past the reach of diving first-baseman Kiowa Looney to tie the score. Lehigh then singled Myers to second, but Kyle Enos’ fly ball into shallow right field was snared by Shiloh Jones, who quickly threw to second to double off Myers to end the inning.
It was a new ball game, but it didn’t last long as the Knights came in for the top of the seventh and produced a huge four-run inning that seemingly put this one in the win column. Not so fast, but that comes later.
Shane Jones kick-started the West Holmes seventh with a walk, and he promptly stole second off of starter and eventual loser Evan Miller. Wagler then switched from pitching mode to that of hitter and smoked a single to plate Jones with the go-ahead run. Collin Reynolds also singled, and after a Brendan Bridenthal bunt, the Braves opted to walk Looney to set up a force out at home plate.
None too impressed with that strategy, Mark Biltz ripped his second hit of the game through the right side to make it 3-0 and keep the bases loaded. Bridger Cline then dropped down a beautiful suicide squeeze bunt, and everyone was safe when nobody covered first base. Hayden Tenney then smacked a single to right to make it 5-1, and although Proper grounded from pitcher, to home, to first for a double play to end the inning, it seemed like the Knights were going to grab a road win against a very good baseball team.
However, the walls were about to shake and shiver as things would threaten to crumble all around the Knights.
A double and a walk put runners on the corners with nobody out. Williams then grounded to Proper, who fired to second to get the lead runner there. The runner scored from third, but the out was the biggest part of the play and left the Braves with Williams on first and one out. Colbey McBeth drove a single to center, and McKeown reached on an error by Looney at first to load the bases.
Things were getting hairy for West Holmes, and when you’ve lost as many one-run games as the Knights, some ugly thoughts can creep into view.
If things were hairy at this point, they were about to get downright fear-inducing.
Pim went to the fire-balling righty Bridenthal, who got Karson Hartrick on a fielder’s choice that made it 5-3. Now with two outs and runners on the corners, a ground ball right down the third-base line was fielded by Proper, whose throw to first arrived at the same moment as the runner, and a collision saw the Braves score a run and put runners on first and third again.
Now trailing by one run and the tying run 90 feet away, it was nail-chewing time for West Holmes.
Facing Ryan Berger, Bridenthal fell behind 3-1 in the count and ran the string out with a strike. Berger then fouled off the next delivery. He pleaded his case that he had hit the catcher’s mitt on his swing.
The umpires met, debated and couldn’t find proof that he had indeed hit Gallion’s mitt, setting the stage for a full-count showdown. Bridenthal reared back and fired a fastball past Berger, ending the game with a strikeout, allowing West Holmes to finally get the one-run win they wanted so desperately.
Wagler went 6 and one-third innings, allowing 13 hits, striking out four and walking two. Bridenthal picked up the save in two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief. Lehigh looked good on the mound for Indian Valley, going six complete innings, allowing one run, striking out four and walking two.
Biltz and Cline each had a pair of hits for the Knights while Hartrick collected three hits and Lehigh and Burcher knocked out a pair for the Braves.