· Baseball - Holmes County ·

Splitsville: Knights and Hawks play nice in DHer that was ruled on the mound

Knights and Hawks duel to a split in cross-county action

The West Holmes Knights traveled east to face the Hiland Hawks in a cross-county rivalry double-header on Saturday, March 31 at Lehman Field. Both teams flashed some leather, but it would be the mound men who would rule the day as West Holmes took game one 6-3 and Hiland took the nightcap 2-1.

In game one West Holmes starter Kiowa Looney and reliever Kendrick Wagler shut down Hiland on just three hits, but in the second game Hiland’s Cordell Miller was brilliant, limiting the Knights to four hits and one tainted run through five innings while the Knights countered with strong efforts from Bridger Cline, Wagler and Brendan Bridenthal.

The split left both head coaches feeling good about the progress their teams made on the day.

“I thought we got a solid effort all day long against a really good program,” West Holmes head coach Bill Pim said. “They’ve got a great tradition, and we battled right with them all day long. I was really pleased with our effort on the mound. We have a lot of really good arms, so we aren’t afraid to bring guys in into tough situations.”

Hiland coach Chris Dages was equally pleased, and he too had high praise for the Knights team, especially its pitching staff. But what really excited Dages was his team’s accuracy. After walking 14 against Loudonville, the Hawks issued just one walk in 14 innings of baseball.

“We talked a lot about the necessity to work ahead and throw strikes and not put guys on base, and I thought our entire staff did a great job of doing that,” Dages said.

With Ryan Hershberger looking good for the Hawks on the mound and Looney dealing for West Holmes, it looked liked a pitcher’s duel was brewing, so Pim went into small-ball mode. It worked and so did the big hits.

Gavin Sheldon started the inning with a single and was bunted over to second on a perfectly executed bunt from Zander Proper. After Shane Jones flew out for the second out, Sheldon advanced to third on a balk, and the Knights went to work to do some huge two-out damage. Cline worked a walk before Bridenthal drove a double to the gap in left center to plate the game’s first run. With runners on second and third, Wagler delivered a huge two-out, two-run single. An error in center off the bat of a fly ball from Looney put two runners on, and Shiloh Jones came through with a monster double to make it 5-0.

“We gave them some extra outs, and they took advantage,” Dages said of the fatal five-run third inning that gave the Knights the cushion they needed to earn the 6-3 win.

Looney kept rolling along, and after Hershberger got through their fourth inning unscathed, the Hawks made their move and chased Looney in the fourth.

An error by Bridenthal at short to start the inning opened the door, and Hershberger lashed a rope to left for a single. One out later Cameron Miller lined a single to right to get the Hawks on the board.

After Damien Kandel grounded back to Looney for the second out, Stevie Beachy raked a double to the base of the fence in left to make it 5-3.

Wagler came on in relief and completely shut down Hiland, and Alec Yoder did the same in relief of Hershberger until the seventh when the Knights picked up a big insurance run.

Proper led off with a sharp single to right, and Shane Jones then hammered a ball deep into the right-center gap and raced around to third to plate the sixth and final Knights’ run.

Hiland had one last at-bat to respond, but Proper made a sensational bare-handed play on Casey Kalman’s slow chopper to end the game.

In game two Cordell Miller and Cline squared off in a great pitcher’s duel.

The game started with a web gem in left field from Shane Jones. After Cordell Miller cruised through the first inning, Andy Miller drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the first inning, and Hershberger hammered a single, moving Andy Miller to second. Kalman lashed a hard ground ball that glanced off of Bridenthal’s glove for an error, and it rolled into left field, where the hard-charging Shane Jones barehanded the ball and fired a laser to home plate to get the speeding Andy Miller to end the inning.

Neither team found any kind of success through three innings, but West Holmes caught a break when Kline lost a two-out high fly ball off the bat of Collin Reynolds in the sun that went for a double. Wagler made it hurt by drilling a double to left to give the Knights the lead.

That one-run cushion lasted no longer than the end of the fourth inning. Cline walked Cameron Miller and Kalman to start the inning, and with one out his wild pitch moved both runners up. Wagler relieved Cline, and Logan Miller greeted him by lining a single back through the box to tie the game and move Kalman to third. With Logan Miller on the move, catcher Sheldon’s throw went through and into the outfield, allowing Kalman to score the go-ahead run.

With the way the game was going, that would prove to be the final run. Cordell Miller cruised through his fifth and final inning in style, striking out a pair, while Wagler allowed an infield single to Michael Miller but stranded him at third base.

On came Damien Kandel for Hiland, and the junior marched cleanly through the top of the Knights’ order.

Wagler got into some trouble in the bottom of the sixth inning, allowing singles to Kalman and Logan Miller around a fielder’s choice. On came the hard-throwing Bridenthal for the Knights, and Logan Miller slammed a single to load the bases with one out.

Bridenthal proceeded to find a whole other gear on his fast ball and blew away pinch hitter Derek Burke and Michael Miller to end the threat and keep it at 2-1 heading into the seventh.

Andy Miller trotted in from his shortstop spot to try to finish off the Knights, and he did quickly, recording three straight strikeouts to end the game and help the Hawks gain the split.

“I thought we came out aggressively in game one, but we had a lot more bad at-bats in game two, but you give their kid credit. He did a nice job of keeping us off-balance, and he threw strikes,” Pim said.

“I was hoping to get both Damien and Andy some work today, and they both came in and kept throwing strikes like we had all day long,” Dages said.

Pim said game two came down to a pair of first-and-third scenarios. West Holmes failed on its effort in the fourth inning, and Hiland came through to score on its first-and-third scenario. Pim said reverse those plays and the game swings the Knights’ way.

“We didn’t execute in that situation and they did, and that was the difference in the game,” Pim said.

“That is two nice games in a row for Cordell, so maybe we have seen him turn the corner,” Dages said. “Every year we seem to have one kid who steps in and really surprises, and maybe it’s him.”

The split evened both team’s overall records at 2-2, and considering they got 14 inning of very solid baseball, both head coaches will gladly take the type of play they got.

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