Spring 2019 continues to be the West Holmes Knights’ year of close wins.
The 11-1 Knights hosted a 1-11 Mansfield Madison team that looked nothing like a one-win team on Wednesday, April 17. Madison rallied twice late, forced the issue, got great pitching and had the Knights on the ropes at the end of the game.
However, as has been the case to date, West Holmes found a way to win when Grant Miller took a 3-2 pitch for ball four that forced in the winning walk-off run in a 4-3 Knights’ win in eight innings.
“We keep finding ways to win ballgames,” West Holmes coach Bill Pim said. “They certainly didn’t play like a one-win team tonight. Their kid threw well, and they are going to be really good in the coming years because they are young, but they have some really nice talent.”
The game began on an ominous note for West Holmes when starting right-fielder Shiloh Jones had a fly ball slam into his nose when he lost it in the sun during warm-ups.
Once the action got going in earnest, West Holmes starter Nate Ginsburg and Rams pitcher Jaekob Conrad matched each other in a battle of great pitching efforts. Conrad kept the Knights off-balance all night, and Ginsburg continued what has been a fantastic season.
Neither team plated a run until the home half of the fifth when Kendrick Wagler drove home a pair of runs to spot West Holmes to a 2-0 lead.
Madison rallied in the sixth to tie the game, the inning starting with a rocket off a shot to third that took a wicked hop, came up and hit third baseman Chase Booth right in the mouth. Unfazed, the next batter hit a bullet right down the third-base line, where Booth dove to his right, snared it, popped up and fired a strike to first to get the runner on what turned out to be a huge play.
With the bases loaded and one run already in, Pim turned to Collin Reynolds. In a tough spot, Reynolds unleashed a wild pitch, allowing the tying run to score.
The Knights came in for their turn to hit in the bottom of the sixth and regained the lead when Booth whacked a two-out single to center to score pinch runner Shiloh Jones, who went in despite what was believed to be a broken nose.
An error to start the top of the seventh opened the door for the Rams, who quickly took advantage, adding a hit and a sacrifice fly off of reliever Noah Clark that tied the game at 3-3. Clark escaped further damage when second baseman Bridger Cline hauled in a line drive to end the inning.
One inning later Shane Jones reached on the slightest of bobbles from the shortstop on his ground ball. Luke Vess then hammered a line-drive single to right to move Shane Jones to third, and after the Rams chose to walk Wagler, it brought Miller to the plate.
The Rams then brought their center-fielder in right behind second base to create a five-man infield, but it didn’t matter. Miller waited through three straight balls to start his at-bat, took a pair of strikes, ripped a bullet just foul down the left-field line, and then took a ball low and away to force in the game-winning run.
“Did I think about a suicide squeeze in that situation?” Pim said. “Yeah, pretty much everything was on the table. I used just about everyone tonight, and we only had two position players who we didn’t sub in for, so we were pulling a lot of strings throughout the night because the game was so close. Fortunately we were able to find a way to win again, which is huge because the top of the OCC is really close.”
West Holmes maintained its one-game lead on Ashland, Mt. Vernon and Lexington and a two-game edge on Wooster.