The busy streets of New York City have absolutely nothing on the West Holmes Knights.
One night after falling 1-0 to the Clear Fork Colts, the Knights stranded an unfathomable 13 base runners in the return contest in Clear Fork Wednesday, April 19, and that led to another one run loss, this time a 5-4 defeat that stung for many reasons.
With the loss West Holmes fell to 7-9 overall, and five of those nine losses have been of the single-run variety.
“These one-run losses are getting tough to take,” said West Holmes coach Bill Pim. “My father once told me that you can play a nearly perfect game in baseball and still lose. That’s what it feels like right now with these losses. We are right there, and Clear Fork is a really good baseball team.”
West Holmes’ odyssey into the land of the stranded began in the first inning and never let up, as the Knights left an average of two runners on base throughout the contest.
Here is how a team leaves more runners on base that can fit into a large van.
For a while it appeared as though the Knights might actually overcome the litter of baserunners they would leave on.
Slade Barnes led off the game with a single, and with two outs Jake Donaldson rifled a shot into right-field for a single, but Barnes was gunned down at third base to end the inning.
Left on base: One.
On the mound, Kendrick Wagler hit two batters in the first frame but got out of trouble with a solid play from second baseman Bridger Cline.
In the second, Cline and Erick Hanna singled with two outs, and after Hanna was picked off first base but was able to scamper back in a run-down, Danny Drummond walked, bringing Barnes to bat. Barnes hammered a line drive, but right at the Colts’ center-fielder who safely tucked it away for the final out of the inning.
Wagler cruised through the second inning, and the Knights went to work in the third. Drew Campbell singled sharply and Donaldson hammered a ball to the fence for a double. Brendan Bridenthal got the Knights on top by singling home Campbell, and Shane Jones racked a double off the fence in left to make it 2-0. After Cline grounded out to third, Hanna smoked a two-run double to right to make it 4-0 Knights. Drummond then crushed a line-drive to third that the third baseman couldn’t handle, and Barnes walked to load the bases with two out, but Trenton Yoder popped out to short, leaving the bases filled with Knights.
Wagler destroyed Clear Fork hitter with ease in the bottom, leading to the fourth inning. Campbell was hit by a pitch to lead the inning off, and after a fielder’s choice forced him at second, Barnes recorded an infield hit. Jones then lined a shot toward right, but the second baseman snared it, spun and fired to second to double off the runner.
In the fourth inning, the wheels came off for the Knights and the downfall began. Usually with a four-run lead, Wagler is pure gold, but on this night the Colts were able to get to him. Three straight singles loaded the bases. Wagler forced a ground ball ground-out to Donaldson, who fired home for the force out. With the bases still loaded, a single to left plated two runs and an error by Yoder at short reloaded the bases. Again, Wagler induced a ground ball to Yoder at short for what looked like an inning ending double play, but Cline’s relay throw sailed wide of Donaldson, allowing the tying run to scamper home.
In the top of the fifth the Knights started yet another threat to regain the lead. Cline singled to start the inning, and after two straight outs, Barnes drew a walk. Yoder then lashed a single to center, but Cline was cut down at home plate on a great throw by Luke Clark to keep the score tied at 4-4.
“I thought Bridger made a great slide to the outside of the plate and was safe, but the umpire saw it differently,” Pim said of the play at the plate.
Clear Fork pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning, chasing Wagler, but it was the Knights’ defense that was the culprit. Two straight errors to lead off the inning put two men on, and a single loaded the bases, bringing on Kiowa Looney into a hairy situation. Looney induced a pop-out back to himself for the first out, but then next batter drove a long shot to the fence in right, where Drummond made a catch falling away from the field of play. The runner on third tagged with ease, and the Colt on second base tried to advance all the way to home, but the relay throw to Hanna was there in time to nail him at the plate. With two innings to play, the Knights had squandered their lead and trailed 5-4.
“Kiowa did a great job of limiting the damage and giving us a chance,” Pim said of Looney’s effort. “He has really stepped up and shown he can pitch in pressure situations. He is a tactician, and I have no problem handing him the ball in a pressure time like that.”
However, it wasn’t the pitching but the defense that opened the door for too many Colts runs
“We got very solid pitching,” Pim said. “We gave away too many outs. It was error after error that killed us. We don’t have to make great plays, we just need to make good plays and get outs, and we didn’t do that, and we ended up compounding one error with another.”
In the sixth, Campbell drew a walk to begin the inning and bring on reliever Gavin Bailey. Donaldson greeted him by stroking a single to center, and Bridenthal laid down a perfect bunt to move both runners up a base. Jones smacked a ground ball to third and was thrown out, with both runners holding, and Cline then struck out to end that threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Drummond made a nice running catch in right field to keep the score where it was at 5-4, and West Holmes was down to its final at bat.
It began with great promise. Hanna drew a walk, and the speedy Isaac Wine went in to run for him. Wine took advantage of a ball that was blocked in the dirt, and quickly raced to second, the tying run now two bases away with no outs. After Drummond went down on strikes, Barnes drew a walk, but Yoder hit a high fly ball to right and Campbell did the same, leaving two more Knights on base.
In a game that featured West Holmes slamming 13 hits, drawing five walks and reaching on two hit batters, the Knights managed to strand 14 runners on base, and also had two thrown out on bang-bang plays at third and home.
It was a disheartening loss after the 1-0 defeat a night earlier that saw Brendan Bridenthal pitch an outstanding game, only to see the Colts shut down the West Holmes offense. Clear Fork scored the game’s lone run in the sixth inning when the lead-off man walked, was sacrificed to second, stole third and came around to score on a sacrifice fly.
“Erik (Hanna) put that throw to third on the steal right on the bag and we got the tag down quickly,” Pim said. “It was really a bang-bang play. I was surprised they ran in that situation, but it paid off for them.”
Breidnethal twirled a complete-game two-hitter, walking just two wile striking out six.
“Brendan threw an absolute gem,” Pim said. “He’s had some control issues this season, but he was really dialed in and throwing great. He has swing-and-miss stuff, and his breaking stuff was nasty. I was very pleased with his effort and I know he was too. It was nice to see him throw the way he can.”
While the frustration of the one-run losses mounts, Pim said there are some real positives to take form the two-game stint with Clear Fork. The Knights got great pitching, they hammered the ball in game two and overall played well enough to win.
“We have to put these kinds of losses behind us and keep focusing on the next game,” Pim said. “We are right there.”