One team produced four hits, the other 11. Normally any betting man would place his hard-earned cash on the team with 11 knocks, but on Wednesday, April 18 at West Holmes High School, the odds did not favor the West Holmes Knights, who fell to the Wooster Generals 4-3 in an Ohio Cardinal Conference thriller on the baseball diamond.
Wooster fell behind early 2-0 and then tallied single scores in the third and seventh, and they did it all on just four hits. One might think that they did their damage on walks and errors, but it was neither of the above. The Generals simply took advantage of their speed on the bases and got timely hits to manufacture the four runs off Knights’ hard-luck loser Kendrick Wagler.
“We had two lead-off walks that came around to score, but other than that I thought Kendrick threw a heck of a ball game,” West Holmes head coach Bill Pim said. “They got a couple of key hits when they had to have them, and we hit the ball hard all night, but they made some plays.”
“Wagler man, that kid is tough,” Wooster head coach Steve Young said. “That kid doesn’t throw anything straight. He works every part of the strike zone. He throws the ball from every angle and throws strikes. We knew coming in he would mix it up and present problems for us, so we talked a lot before the game about taking advantage of our opportunities and running as much as possible because that is a strength of this team.”
The Knights got on top in their half of the first inning when Shane Jones singled, stole second and rode home on Wagler’s RBI single. West Holmes built the lead to two in the second inning when Kiowa Looney singled to lead off the frame and scored on Zander Proper’s RBI single.
Wooster got one run back in the third when Kristian Scalf delivered a huge two-out single to plate Joey Lyons.
Wooster took the lead in the top of the fourth as a hit batter and run-scoring singles off the bats of Lyons and Jake Curren gave the Generals the edge.
West Holmes then had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the inning but failed to produce. Brendan Bridenthal and Looney stroked back-to-back singles to open the inning. Evan Yoder tried to advance them, but Meese came roaring off the mound to snag his line-drive bunt, making a diving catch inches above the grass. That became even bigger when the next batter, Shiloh Jones, mashed a ball to the wall in right field that was caught, and Meese induced an easy out to end the threat.
Neither team scored over the next couple of frames as both Wagler and Meese were getting the job done, but it was another gem of a play by Meese that halted yet another Knights’ rally. In the fifth Collin Reynolds led off with a single, and Bridenthal drilled a line shot back through the middle on a ball that looked destined for a hit to center. Instead, Meese twirled and made a sensational grab, firing to first base to complete the double play.
His defensive gems proved to be the difference in the contest.
“I just tried to stay mentally strong tonight and finish what I started,” Meese said. “I try to defend my position the best I can. I really thought that liner hit off the end of my glove, and I looked down, and there it was.”
“That bunt play speaks volumes as to Trevor’s athleticism,” Young said. “That was a heck of a big play.”
Wooster tacked on a huge insurance run in the seventh inning when a walk and Meese’s single allowed the Generals to take a 4-2 lead.
The Knights had one last at-bat, and things got very hairy for Wooster as the Knights mounted yet one more threat.
A walk to Shiloh Jones and a single by Proper put two runners on with no outs. Shane Jones then rifled a single to center to draw West Holmes within one at 4-3. With runners at first and second, Bridger Cline dropped down a gorgeous sacrifice bunt, and Wooster chose to walk Wagler, bringing a pair of big bats to the plate with the winning run on second base.
“We loaded the bases with one out with two great hitters coming up and the guy we want on second base in Shane Jones,” Pim said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more. The conversation we are having now would be completely different if we deliver a hit in that situation, but that is the way baseball is sometimes. You can’t hang your head. I thought we played a solid game. Sometimes things just don’t go your way.”
Reynolds hit the first offering from Meese to shallow left center, where Scalf swooped in and fired a pea to the plate that would have cut down Proper had he tried to tag. West Holmes had one more shot, but Meese got Bridenthal to hit a soft-liner to second, where Adam Frank tucked it away to secure a Generals win.
“This is one more game that will keep me up late,” Pim said.
His team has now dropped four one-run games, and he said finding ways to come away with victories in close ball games is crucial to the success of this year’s group.
“We need to see the other side of it,” Pim said of dropping one-run games. “I think that would give us a lot of confidence.”
Young said the victory was a big one for his youthful squad, and he credited the victory to Meese’s bulldog mentality on the mound and his team’s speed.
“When you don’t have to bunt guys over and give away outs to move runners, that is a big advantage,” Young said. “We did that well tonight. And Trevor threw a great game. He went out there and battled against a pretty good hitting club. He has been Mister Steady all season, and he doesn’t get rattled in tough situations, although he about gave me a heart attack in the seventh. He is just a hard-working competitor and has stepped up big for us.”