HOWARD — A two-out run in the bottom of the seventh inning pushed the East Knox Bulldogs past the Loudonville Redbirds, 4-3, in the Mid-Buckeye Conference baseball opener on Wednesday afternoon.
Chase Cottrell doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning for the Bulldogs, who came from two down in the late innings. Cottrell moved up to third with two outs before Michael Hedrick hit a shot back up the middle off Loudonville starter Jordan Lance, plating Cottrell.
“This feels really good,” said Cottrell. “We expected a close game at the beginning. We didn’t know how good they would be. ... I was a little bit nervous”
Lance did his part, tying the game in the top of the seventh with a solo home run to right-center field with two out.
“We did a good job of keeping our composure,” said East Knox coach Kevin Gallwitz. “(After the home run), we got the next out and got in here, and knew we had to do something. We did a good of getting the leadoff guy on base, moved him around and then got the walk-off hit. I thought we kept our composure very good in that respect. Early in the game, we seemed a little flat, but I was proud of the way we battled back. We got the runs when we needed them.”
The Redbirds jumped ahead early, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. After that, East Knox starter John Burwell settled in and kept the Redbirds in check for the next three innings. Burwell gave up five hits and struck out two before Brandon Good came on to start the fifth inning. Good also shut down Loudonville, striking out five in three innings of three-hit ball to earn the win.
The Bulldog bats finally started to get some things going in the bottom of the fourth. Hedrick reached on an error to lead off the inning, stole second base and moved to third on a groundout. Justin Duvall walked before Hedrick came home on a Loudonville wild pitch for the first East Knox run.
Then in the fifth inning, East Knox took the lead with a pair of runs. Cottrell hit a one-out single, which allowed him to race home after Mike Moreland hit a double to center field. He moved to third on a groundout, and came home after Hedrick reached on an error for the second time in the game. Loudonville had three errors for the game.
“We put the bat on the ball and put it in play,” Cottrell said. “We are offensive minded. We don’t quit.”
Lance went the distance for Loudonville, allowing six hits and four runs with four strikeouts. At the plate, Lance went 3-for-4 with two singles and the home run.
For East Knox, Burwell and Moreland each doubled, and Duvall, Nick Kidd, Cottrell and Hedrick each singled. Cottrell scored twice, while Moreland and Hedrick each added a run. Kidd and Hedrick each had a stolen base.
“Offensively, we keep going after it,” Gallwitz said. “We did that last week against Newcomerstown. We came from behind and won. I think we have a lot of confidence and believe in ourselves. Some days you are going to have to rely on your pitching and some days you will have a better day at the plate. As long as you keep working at it, things are going to happen. I try to tell the boys that a lot, and I think they are taking that to heart. It showed today.”
With the win, East Knox improves to 5-0, while Loudonville falls to 1-4 overall.