Knights stun 2-seed Tri-Valley in sectional final upset

Knights stun 2-seed Tri-Valley in sectional final upset

Image Credit: Justin Smith

West Holmes head baseball coach Wyatt Mellor knew what kind of team he had coming into tournament play, and when his crew received the 13th seed in the Div. II East district, he felt his team had the ability to prove the seeding process wrong.

After rolling to a 20-2 victory on Saturday, May 14 over Maysville, the Knights faced a huge mountain in facing #2 seed Tri-Valley (17-7) on Tuesday, May 17 at the Scotties’ home field at Kenny Wolford Park in Dresden.

It was the upset opportunity Mellor and the Knights were looking for to prove themselves to be much better than their seed assignment, and Noah Clark put an enormous exclamation point on that statement by striking out 13 Scotties en route to leading the Knights to a 4-0 victory that stunned Tri-Valley.

“We knew what we had to do coming into this, and the guys wanted to prove we were as good as anyone in the district,” Mellor said. “We had seen Tri-Valley play a couple times (including a 5-4 loss to the Scotties earlier in the season), and we felt that if we could get on top, it might demoralize them.”

The Knights did, but what may have been more demoralizing was the dominance of Clark on the mound.

Early on, Clark proved to be overpowering with eight of the first nine Scotties outs being of the strikeout variety. However, Clark had to work out of two early jams with control trouble, but each time he mustered up a terrific effort to get key strikeouts.

“Noah has such a great mound presence,” Mellor said. “Nothing rattles him. He had some pitches not go his way early, and he just got the ball back and went right back to work. He understands how to pitch, and he is so strong mentally. He has proved over and over this season how he can command a game.”

Clark retired the side in order in the fourth, earning his 10th strikeout to end the frame, and the Knights came in and finally broke through to take the lead in the fifth off Landon Hardy.

After recording two strikeouts, Hardy hit Dylan Robinson, and Brady Smith rocked a long double over the head of the right fielder to plate Robinson for a 1-0 lead. Gino Dinardi reached on an error, putting runners on the corner, but that was where they stayed.

Clark dominated the fifth, and the Knights went back to work, adding some insurance in the sixth.

Micah Martin reached on an infield single to start the inning, and Robbie Fendrick pinch-ran for Martin. After Fendrick stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Hunter Aurand had a 10-pitch at-bat before going down on strikes. Mellor then pulled some strings, and Carson Tanner laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt for a run-scoring single.

Clark walked the lead-off hitter in the sixth, and the runner advanced to third on a groundout to third, but Clark induced a groundout to third baseman Nick Ginsburg to end the threat.

The Knights would give Clark two huge insurance runs in the seventh, and to no one’s surprise, it would be Brady Smith serving as the sparkplug with a one-out infield single.

“Brady is a bulldog at the plate,” Mellor said of a player who began the season hitting ninth before showing his head coach he needed to serve in the lead-off role.

Mellor said Smith went 55 at-bats this season before finally striking out. “Brady is so mentally and physically tough because of his wrestling experience. It carries right over to baseball.”

Dinardi stepped up and delivered a crushing triple to center to make it 3-0. Martin hit a chopper to third that took a wicked hop and went for an error to plate Dinardi.

It was a matter of Clark slamming the door, and he started the seventh with his 13th strikeout. A quick groundout to first and shortstop sent the Knights into the districts, having proven their point. Clark went the distance, allowing three hits and walking four to go with the 13 strikeouts.

“We came into this game with the mentality that this was our district final, and we played that way,” Mellor said. “We were focused and sharp, and we played a 17-6 baseball team and took it to them. We as coaches keep telling these guys that every game we’ve played, whether a win or a loss, has prepared us for this moment. Our season has had ups and downs and has been a roller coaster, but it has prepared us for this time, and this is the season that matters.”

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