Times Sports Editor
A listless Northview offense and a combined 10 walks by three different pitchers nearly cost the Knights its first baseball loss to Sullivan since the 2004 season.
"We definitely stole one there," Northview coach Scott McDonald said. "Offensively we just weren't very good. I don't know what has happened to our bats, but hopefully it will pick up here pretty soon."
Starting pitcher TJ Decker allowed just one run over four innings of work while striking out eight Arrows, but four walks helped build his pitch count up and forced the Knights to go to Brock Smith in a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning.
Sullivan answered with a leadoff single by Tucker Smith, who moved to third on a groundout and a stolen base. After a walk to James Lisman, Smith intentionally walked Arrows' pitcher Bryce Bement to load the bases with one out. Marcus Ridge drove in a run with a groundout to shortstop and the Knights got out of the inning trailing just 2-1.
Meanwhile, Bement kept Northview off balance, scattering four hits, including an RBI double by Craig Peters, through four innings.
In the fifth inning, the Knights' bats began to awaken as TJ Decker led off the fifth with a single and Devin Clark reached on an infield single, though he later picked off first. Connor Ganly singled to shortstop to put a runner on third base after a groundout by Kodie Girton. Bement would uncork a wild pitch to bring in Decker with the tying run.
The Arrows came right back in the sixth inning to take the lead on a walk to Noble Harrison, who went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Luke McPhail. Harrison would score on an error, but Knights' hurler Brock Wheeler got a pair of strikeouts to limit the damage.
Afterwards, McDonald was pleased with how his pitching staff responded to the Arrows' challenge.
"Our defense was better and TJ (Decker) just went deep into a lot of counts and just wracked up a ton of pitches early. He was at 92 through four innings," McDonald said. "Brock Smith came in and threw the ball well and (Brock) Wheeler, like he's done all year, went out and pitched very well."
Trailing 3-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning, the Knights led off the frame as Zach Hull drew a walk and moved to second on a passed ball. A ground out by Conner Pierce moved him to third and Dan Reberger hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3-all with one out.
Bo Stewart came to the plate and singled and proved to be a catalyst as he stole second and the throw sailed into centerfield and he moved to third. After a walk by Decker, Devin Clark stepped up and drilled the go-ahead RBI single to score Stewart.
Wheeler would gain the victory as he snagged a come backer to the mound, struck out Camdon Kuppler after a walk to Ridge and finished the win by coaxing a flyball from Harrison to end the game.
"Devin Clark getting the hit that put us in the lead (was huge)," McDonald said. "We had talked about, going into the bottom of the sixth, with Wheeler on the mound, if we got the lead then it was over. It was just a dogfight from the opening pitch. We had a lot of pop-ups and we were really out on our front foot a lot. We just have to do a better job offensively.
"(Sullivan) outplayed us I thought from the standpoint of intensity in the game and doing the fundamental things," McDonald continued. "We have to do fundamental things better and that's my fault. Maybe we're not working hard enough in practice. We'll rectify that tomorrow."
The Knights (7-2 overall, 1-0 WIC) face Lawrence Central at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
2B -- Nv (Peters), SL (None). SB -- Nv (Reberger, Stewart), SL (Smith, Garner). CS -- Nv (Peters), SL (Ridge).
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