Not too long ago the West Holmes Knights finally won a one-run game after having dropped six of them this season.
However, on Monday, May 7 at West Holmes High School, Knights head coach Bill Pim could have done without a nail-biter victory.
Leading Ashland 6-0 heading into the final inning with Collin Reynolds in complete control on the mound, the Arrows showed some fight and clawed back, but the Knights eventually earned a 6-4 win.
“We’ve got to find ways to finish off games better than we did tonight,” Pim said. “But overall I thought we had a pretty solid effort from start to finish tonight.”
The Knights only scored in two innings, but in both the third and sixth innings they plated a trio of runs to build the big lead.
In the third Evan Yoder started the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Shane Jones and rode home on Kendrick Wagler’s double. With two outs Brendan Bridenthal crushed a double, and Zander Proper followed with an RBI single for the 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile Reynolds was dominating the Arrows lineup, although the Arrows did strand seven runners over the first five innings.
West Holmes then picked up three huge runs in the sixth. After the first two hitters struck out, Ashland pitcher Taylor Bunce put himself in a bind by hitting a batter and walking two more to load the bases and usher heavy-hitting Shane Jones to the plate. Jones came through by drilling a bases-clearing triple to the wall for a 6-0 lead.
“That triple by Shane was a huge hit at a key time and turned out to be really big,” Pim said.
Those six 1-run losses have skewed the Knights’ record this season, resulting in a record of 8-11. However, that record could easily be much better, and Pim knows what kind of team he has despite the 12 seed the Knights were awarded in the Div. II 16-team sectional/district.
Armed with a really good starting staff on the mound, West Holmes has been in every single game this season and has been a team that dealt both Indian Valley and Hiland, both three-loss teams on the year, one of their three losses.
“We’ve been in so many close games and tough situations that you don’t get as nervous anymore when those things arise,” Pim said. “We’ve been there now, and you react differently when you’ve seen it so many times before. We’re coming on right now, and even though we are a 12 seed, we feel confident.”
While the Knights have had some strange game-enders this year including a walk-off on an error and a balk, this one was right there in its oddity.
Leading 6-0, Reynolds got the first out of the seventh inning on a strikeout. He then hit a batter and allowed a single, and Pim called on Bridger Cline to finish the job.
Things got worse for West Holmes before that happened. Cline coughed up a double and a single, and an RBI ground out made it 6-3 with a runner on third, but now there were two outs. A Cade McQuate chopper to shortstop looked like the final out, but Bridenthal came charging hard, scooped and fired a low rocket to first that handcuffed Reynolds.
However, McQuate turned and made a beeline for second base, where he found himself in a run-down and was eventually tagged out for the game’s final out.
“We’ve had some wild finishes to games, but that is a new one,” Pim said with a chuckle. “That’s baseball for you.”
After experiencing plenty of heartache in strange ways and losing a lot of tight ball games, Pim said it feels like the tide is turning and the Knights are now winning the same way they were losing earlier in the year.
“The whole year we seemed to be getting all of the tough-luck losses and bad breaks, and all of a sudden everything seems to be going our way,” Pim said. “I guess this is the time of the year you want to feel like that.”