One one-run loss is a big enough punch to the gut to topple a team. But when you experience them on back-to-back nights in eerily similar fashion, that can leave a team staggering and a coach dumbfounded as to what to tell his team.
After falling to Ashland 8-7 in Tuesday, April 4 at Ashland, the West Holmes Knights hosted the Arrows the following night and fell 3-2, leaving the dugout incredibly quiet following the game.
“I am at a loss as to what to even say tonight,” said West Holmes coach Bill Pim. “To lose another game in the same way we did last night is really tough to handle.”
While the one-run losses were hard enough to take, both came with the Knights stranding the tying and winning runs on base in their last at bat, both came with the final out being recorded via a strikeout.
In the opener, West Holmes jumped out to a 5-0 lead by scoring all five runs in the second inning. Jake Donaldson, Bridger Cline and Shane Jones all singled, before Erik Hanna hammered an offering over the wall for a grand slam. Kendrick Wagler then singled and came around to score on a fielder’s choice.
However, with Donaldson on the mound, the Arrows responded with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning, with Ashland getting four hits and a couple of West Holmes errors to draw within one run.
Ashland tied the game in the third, then took a two-run lead in the fifth inning before Hanna delivered again. After Jones drew a walk, Hanna hammered a 2-1 pitch over the wall to tie the game at 7-7. Then in the seventh inning, West Holmes started a two-out rally, when Jones singled and Hanna and Wagler were walked. However, Slade Barnes, who has been one of the Knights best hitters, was struck out on a full count.
Ashland then came in and went to work on West Holmes reliever Brendan Bridenthal. A double leading off the inning was followed by three Bridenthal free passes, and Ashland walked off, literally, with a walk-off win.
In the return trip the next night, Barnes created a run with his wheels. He walked to start the game, then advanced to third on a wild pick-off attempt before racing home on a passed ball.
In the second inning, Ashland did all of its damage off of Wagler, who has been very good this season on the mound.
Two singles and a fielder’s choice were followed by a looping single to center to plate the first ruin, then the Arrows pulled off two consecutive suicide squeeze bunts to score two more runs. Only a double play to end the inning would limit the damage to three runs, but it was enough.
“They executed,” Pim said. “The first bunt Kendrick didn’t handle cleanly, and even though we expected the second bunt, he laid it down perfectly. You have to give them credit, but at the same time we have to do a better job of defending something that we work on.”
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Ashland pitcher B.J. Stormen kept dancing in and out of trouble, and escaped damage in the fourth. Trenton Yoder singled to start the inning and Drew Campbell walked. After Donaldson grounded out to first to advance the runners, Bridenthal line a ball to center that was deep enough to score Yoder, but Yoder took several steps toward the plate before returning to tag up. He was thrown out at home to complete the double play that left West Holmes trailing by two.
West Holmes finally found success in the sixth to draw within one run. Cline doubled and scored on Yoder’s RBI ground-out that was smoked right at the shortstop.
Wagler sailed through the seventh, and completed a tremendous effort in which he gave his team every opportunity to win.
The Knights gave it a go in the bottom of the seventh. Bridenthal ripped a one-out single to right, and with two outs and down to his final strike, Jones hammered a ball down the line in right to advance runners to second and third.
Shane Jones keeps Knights hopes alive with a 2-out double in the bottom of 7th with WH trailing Ashland 3-2 pic.twitter.com/ikxQquXRyw
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) April 5, 2017
On came Seth Piper to face the hot-hitting Hanna, who worked the count to full. Piper next offering was a tad low and out of the strike zone, but it was close enough that Hanna had to offer, and he missed, ending the threat and the game.
“Kendall kept us in the game and gave us a chance, and that is all you can ask for,” Pim said. “He had that one bad inning where they had those two bunts, but he came back and actually got stronger as the game went on, which is what he has been doing a good job of lately. In the last inning both Brendan and Shane had really good at bats. Shane is really starting to come around right now, which we need. But to have this game end like last night’s is so difficult to take.”
Pim said that any loss is hard to take, but a one-run loss, and then another right on its heels, leaves everyone thinking about the little things they could have done to turn the tide.
“We’re so close, so close,” Pim said. “I feel bad for the kids because they are working hard and the results just aren’t quite there. We need to experience success to build success, and let’s face it, winning is fun. This just really gets you down, but all we can do is work to bounce back Saturday.”
In the two games, Hanna was a red-hot 4-of-7 with the two home runs and six RBI, while Jones went 3-of-6. Bridenthal and Donaldson also both hit the ball hard in both contests.
After allowing the three runs in the second inning, Wagler was pure gold, giving up just two more hits the rest of the way to finish with a six-hitter. He struck out a pair and did not allow a free pass.