HOWARD — After posting eight runs in the first two games, the East Knox High School baseball team showed a propensity for scoring, but coach Kevin Gallwitz wasn’t totally pleased. He challenged his players to be more aggressive at the plate, and against Crestline on Wednesday, that’s what he saw.
Right from the start, the Bulldogs jumped all over Crestline and never let up. The end result was 19 hits, including 10 for extra bases, and a 24-3 rout of Crestline. Six East Knox players collected two or more hits, including a 4-for-4 day by shortstop John Burwell.
“I’ve been coaching here for seven years and I’ve never seen a team score 24 runs,” said East Knox coach Kevin Gallwitz. “(Tuesday), we didn’t hit the ball that well; we had nine hits. I tried to stress to the kids that we needed to be a little more aggressive at the plate, and I think that really showed. We had some long balls and a lot of guys with nice base hits. I think they really took it to heart and stepped it up.”
East Knox, which improved to 3-0, jumped on Crestline (0-2) starter Ryan Hoffman for four runs in the first four at-bats. Colton Tucker reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the first and Michael Hedrick walked. Burwell then singled in Tucker, who stole second and third bases during Hedrick’s at-bat. Nick Kidd then stepped to the plate and blasted the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center field.
Hoffman managed to notch an out on the next batter, but one was all he could get. Josh Neely drilled a home run to center to make it a 5-0 game before Jordan Hill doubled. Mike Moreland drove in Hill with an RBI single, prompting a pitching change. Mike Crum came on and got the first batter he faced — Nick McCament — to ground out. Tucker stepped back in, however and hit a 1-2 pitch to right, plating Moreland for a 7-0 advantage.
“This was awesome,” said Kidd. “To come out and hit the home runs got our confidence up a lot. ... We thought they were going to be a pretty good ball team, so we came out wanting to play hard. We came out hitting, and kept adding to it.”
Crestline got one run back in the top of the second after a triple play was miscalled by the umpires. Brian Hefner and Crum hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, and Luke Bruce stepped into the batter’s box. Bruce grounded to Hedrick at second, who then in turn went to second base for the force out. Burwell then threw on to first for the double play, but Hefner did not advance on the force out. Instead, he retreated to second, where Burwell, after getting the ball back from Tyler Busenburg, applied a tag. Hefner was ruled safe, however, and the inning continued.
The next batter, Matt Williams, worked the count full before hitting a single back up the middle to plate Hefner.
East Knox continued to hammer Crestline’s pitchers over the next two innings, scoring six and seven runs, respectively. Crestline managed to add two runs in the top of the third, but trailed 20-3 after three.
“This gives us a lot of confidence,” said Burwell of the victory, “but we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to go after it. ... Today, we got our bats out of the bag and ripped the ball.”
After holding Crestline scoreless in the top of the fourth, the Bulldogs padded their lead against Williams. Jason Thompson was hit leading off the inning, and after a pop out, Jon Washatka reached on a Crestline error. Chase Cottrell then drove Thompson in with a single to center. Washatka moved up to third on a groundout by Hedrick, who had an RBI triple the inning before, and Burwell hit his second double of the game, scoring both base runners. Kidd followed with an RBI single to left to cap off the scoring.
“I always tell them, ‘You should never be satisfied.’ As a coach, you are very rarely satisfied; you are always wanting one more,” said Gallwitz. “Today I am satisfied.”
McCament (1-0) picked up the win, throwing the first three innings. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out four. Moreland pitched the final two innings, walking one and striking out one.
“This is McCament’s first year of playing high school baseball; he has played a lot of Babe Ruth and is a junior,” Gallwitz said. “I thought he did a pretty good job for his first outing. We got him some confidence, and played pretty good defense behind him. Mike Moreland came in and really stepped it up. He did a good job to finish it off.”
Burwell, who finished with four runs scored, a stolen base and six RBI, was the top hitter. Kidd went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI; Tucker and Moreland were also 3-for-4. Tucker had four RBI and scored three runs; Moreland scored three runs and drove in two. Neely was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and a solo home run in the first inning; and Hill went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and a second-inning solo home run.
The Bulldogs must face the reality that games like Wednesday’s are not every day occurrences and do it in a hurry. They have two mote games this week against tougher opponents. East Knox hosts Coshocton today and then travels to West Holmes on Friday.
“I think these next two games are going to be a really good test for us,” said Gallwitz. “They are bigger schools. They traditionally have very strong programs, and are very well coached. I think this will show us what we are made of.”