Knights rally for Wharton’s 500th win
Monday, April 14, 2014 12:00 AM
By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
CONVOY - Few people knew that Crestview baseball coach Jim Wharton was going for his 500th win Saturday against Kalida, not even Jim Wharton. The Knights, however, pushed across seven runs in the last three innings to overcome a 6-0 deficit and pull out a 7-6 win over Kalida. It was the first game of a doubleheader and Crestview’s fourth win of the season against no losses. The Knights stayed perfect by posting a 3-1 win in the nightcap.
“I don’t know, I’m not aware of that — I don’t keep track,” said Wharton when told of the milestone. “If that’s true, it was kind of a fun one to have. This game is for the kids. If it is 500, it’s been a true blessing to be the person in charge here. We have a great community. I’ve just had great kids, great players who’ve played for me, quality people. The administration has been excellent in support above us. The coaching staff has been extremely loyal. You couldn’t ask for anything better. I’ve also been blessed with a loving wife and family that’s been willing to do that.”
Wharton took the helm in 1983, making this his 32nd season, an unusual tenure in terms of longevity as well as wins — an average of 16 victories per year.
This one didn’t come easily. Both pitchers, Adrian Camp for Crestview and Colton Farrell for Kalida, breezed through the first two innings, but the Wildcats broke through for three runs in the top of the third. With one out, first baseman Jeff Knueve lined a single to left, then went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a ground out. Knueve scored on a booted grounder off the bat of third baseman Noah Lambert. Catcher Brent Hovest ripped a single to left, putting runners at first and second, then center fielder Austin Swift blasted a double to the gap in right-center, scoring both Lambert and Hovest.
Crestview posed a major threat in its half of the fourth when first baseman Damian Helm grounded a one-out single up the middle and advanced to second on an infield out. Rightfielder Jordan Roop smashed a hit to left, but left fielder Trevor Maag threw a perfect strike to home, nailing Helm.
The Cats made it 6-0 in the top of the fifth. Second baseman Trent Gerding led off with an opposite-field Texas Leaguer that found the grass in right. Lambert then smoked a grounder over the third base bag that Isaiah Simerman back-handed and rifled to second. Brock Rolsten took the throw and relayed to first for as pretty a double play as you’ll ever see in high school baseball. Although Kalida would go on to score three in the inning, it could’ve been a lot worse without the spectacular twin killing.
Hovest and Swift then singled, which brought Wharton to the mound to switch Camp and center fielder Cam Etzler.
“When I went to the mound to make the change, I told the team that in the thirty years I’ve been here, that was one of the best double plays I’ve seen turned at Crestview,” said Wharton. “Simerman has a hard backhand, plants hard, and then Brock turns the double play as well as it can be turned. It was not only huge, but it was a pretty play.”
Nevertheless, the rally wasn’t over. Etzler initially had trouble finding the plate. He walked the first two batters he faced and threw a couple of run-scoring wild pitches while doing so. A passed ball led to another run.
The Knights finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Catcher Nate Owens singled to right and went to second when his shot eluded the right fielder. He scored on a booted grounder and an infield out to make it 6-1, Wildcats, after five.
Etzler settled down and presided over a 1-2-3 top of the sixth, and Crestview mounted a serious comeback in the bottom half. Left fielder Mitchell Rickard led off by bouncing an opposite-field single through the left side, and Helm reached on an infield bobble. One out later, Roop walked to fill the sacks, knocking Farrell from the game in favor of the lefty Swift. Owens greeted Swift with a monster blast to the gap in left center, bringing in Rickard, Helm, and Roop, drawing the Knights to within two at 6-4, Kalida, after six.
Etzler threw another 1-2-3 inning, and Crestview immediately went to work against Swift. Rolsten led off with a walk and Etzler followed with a free pass. Rickard sent a flare to the grass down the right field line, plating Rolsten and putting runners on the corners. Rickard stole second without a throw and was replaced by pinch runner Jordan Miller.
Kalida then chose to issue an intentional walk to Helm, filling the bags with no outs. Simerman bounced to short for a force at home and the first out. Roop then grounded to third, but that attempted force at home went into the dirt and past the catcher, bring in Miller for the tie and Helm for the game-ender.
“I told the kids when we were down 6-0, we need to get better or we’re gonna get run-ruled,” said Wharton. “The first three runs, we gift-wrapped for them. The second three they earned, but we let them cross the plate with wild pitches and passed balls. The resiliency of these kids has been tremendous. They have great chemistry, and they’re just very good together.”
Rickard, Helm, and Owens had two hits apiece to lead Crestview hitters. Owens had a double and three RBI. Hovest and Swift had two hits each for Kalida. Swift had a two-bagger and two RBI.
Etzler got the win with 2 1/3 innings of work, yielding one run, unearned, and no hits, while striking out four and walking two. During his 4 2/3 innings, Camp gave up five runs, two earned, on seven hits, fanning three and walking none.
Swift absorbed the loss with an inning-plus of work, during which he yielded three runs, one earned, on two hits, walking three and striking out nobody. Farrell was impressive, keeping the Knights off balance with an assortment of accurate breaking balls that yielded only one strikeout, but also only one walk, in 5 1/3 innings. Of his four runs, two were earned.