Times Sports Editor
In Saturday's opener of the Northview Invitational, threatening skies and heavy rains the night before weren't enough to keep the Knights from handing Class 3A No. 10 ranked Bellmont its first loss of the season.
"The Bellmont game was big for us in the sense of being another big game challenge," Northview coach Scott McDonald said. "They were undefeated coming in, ranked 10th in 3A."
The Knights led the entire way, but got a pair of sixth inning insurance runs and starting pitcher Kodie Girton settled in after allowing four early runs to get the victory. Caleb Mershon came in to finish off the victory, allowing a run, on a walk and a base hit, but struck out two and got Bellmont's Ben Baker to ground out to earn the save.
The Braves came into the game with an unblemished 6-0 mark on the season and boasted five hitters with better than a .450 batting average.
However, the Knights are certainly no slouches at the plate and got on the board first against Bellmont starter, Nick Fuelling.
Northview took a quick 5-1 lead after two innings as Kodie Girton reached on an error and came around to score in the first inning on two passed balls.
In the second frame, TJ Decker was hit-by-pitch, stole second, and Joey Thomas drove him home with a ringing double. Thomas came around to score on Conor Pierce's single and back-to-back RBI doubles by Girton and Andrew Butts gave the Knights a four-run cushion.
Bellmont came right back on an RBI double by Ben Baker and a two-run double by Brian Hakes, who came in hitting .571 on the season.
After the Braves had climbed back within 5-4, Girton settled in and kept Bellmont scoreless over his final three innings of work.
The Knights loaded the bases in the fourth frame on an infield single by Girton, who was on base all four times, which included two errors. Zac Niehaus drew a walk and Zach Hull reached after being hit in the back with a pitch by Fuelling, which was his final pitch of the afternoon.
Landon Baker came in to relief Fuelling and quickly walked Seth Lunsford to force a run home and give the Knights a 6-4 lead. However, Baker was able to get out of the inning by striking out Curtis Grove to end the threat.
Northview maintained the two-run lead into the bottom of the sixth when another bout of wildness by Baker got a rally going for the Knights.
Niehaus walked to lead off the inning and Hull was safe on a fielder's choice play. Lunsford moved both of them over with a perfect bunt and Grove smashed a two-run double to increase the lead to 8-4.
Girton's day was done on the mound after six innings of work and he gave way to Mershon, who had to face the top of the Braves' potent lineup.
Gunnar Cale led off with a single before Mershon struck out Brandon Vogelwede on a nasty breaking pitch. However, the ball scooted away from Lunsford behind the plate and Vogelwede reached base safely and moved Cale to third. Mershon uncorked a wild pitch that scored Cale and he walked Hakes to continue the rally.
The Braves looked to be in good shape with one run in and two base runners with no outs, but Mershon coaxed a groundout from Landon Baker, who was hitting .647 with three home runs this season. Mershon followed with a strikeout of Matt Stidam and got Ben Baker to ground out to finish off the victory.
"We got a lot of clutch hitting from Thomas, Pierce, Girton, and Butts, all with two out RBI's in the crucial second inning," McDonald said. "It is very encouraging to see that our kids can produce in pressure situations. That is a big confidence booster for them. Kodie was able to make the big pitch when he needed them for us to win. Caleb came in and shut the door for our win."
The Knights improved to 8-1 overall with the victory.
2B -- Nv (Grove, Girton, Butts, Thomas), BL (Hakes, Stidam, B.Baker). SB -- Nv (None), BL (None). CS -- Nv (Butts, Thomas).
|K.Girton (W, 2-0)||6.0||4||8||1||6|
|Mershon (S, 1)||1.0||1||1||1||2|
|Fuelling (L, 2-1)||3.2||6||6||2||4|