Defense, pitching earns Greeneview district title game berth


JAMESTOWN — One-run games raise the intensity level of each play, giving cool headed players an advantage.

Enter Kaden Knisley at shortstop for Greeneview, who made two of the biggest plays of the season to keep his team alive.

Greeneview avoided a scare in Monday’s Division III district semifinal game at home against Preble Shawnee, advancing past the Arrows with a 1-0 win.

“Both times I was waiting and anticipating that ball to come at me because I knew I had to make a play,” Knisley said. “All of those outs counted and we needed those bad. It can be some scary moments, but that was it because we got it done.”

Keegan Phillips threw six shutout innings in his start, and Hunter Brooks got the official save, but it was Knisley who was at the forefront of getting three of the biggest outs including one to end the game.

Preble Shawnee got its leadoff runner to second in the sixth after a base hit to left was misplayed. A pop up in the infield followed, but Phillips walked the next hitter to put two Arrows on base for just the second time in the game. A hard ground ball on a 1-1 count was hit just off the dirt by second base, with Knisley planting his feet to start a 6-4-3 double play with Jarrod Mays stretching out at first to get the inning ending play by a step.

After the Rams were unable to add on in the bottom half of the inning, another leadoff runner in the seventh for Preble Shawnee got to second on a wild pitch and became the only runner to reach third after taking the bag on a dropped third strike.

With the tying run 90 feet away, Hunter Brooks induced a bouncing ball straight up the middle. Knisley charged in front of the bag, not stopping his motion to slightly bend down to his left and gather a throw to first, all in one move to deliver a dart straight to the base and secure the win.

“To get the final out, man, we all knew that the game was on the line and we had to get that one to end the game,” Knisley said. “Everything was just so tense because we knew we had to stop them the whole game.”

Greeneview scored the game’s only run in the first inning on a wild pitch with two outs. Several miscues on the base paths interrupted other rallies and chances to keep the score close, which head coach John-March Brooks described as keeping him nauseous after putting the blame on himself, but Phillips tossed eight strikeouts on the mound and allowed only three hits to limit chances for the Arrows.

His defense didn’t let him down either in getting every out needed, including during a rundown off a pickoff attempt in the fifth inning which was scored as a 1-3-4-1-6-1-4 play.

“The middle infield played great today,” John-Marc Brooks said. “I think Knisley made another catch going over his shoulder that would have been a bloop. That was a big play and Knisley played really good for us today and the middle played really good in general.”

Greeneview, now 24-4 overall as the the No. 1 seed in the Southwest District and ranked No. 5 in the final OHSBCA D-III top-20 state poll of the season, got to the same round a year ago but lost a close contest. Now they will play in the district title game for the first time since 1994 and will face No. 6 Madeira at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. (Update: The game will be played at the Midland Baseball Complex in Batavia, Ohio.)

The Rams loaded up the back end of its schedule against difficult competition from higher levels which mostly all played out as tight affairs, games which Brooks credited with helping for the situation his team found itself in on Monday.

“That’s tournament baseball and that’s why we wanted to do that,” he said. “Sometimes you learn more in a close loss than you do sometimes in a big win, and I think we took away some big lessons.”

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.

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