BY BRIAN BASSETT
CONVOY - If the Crestview Knight baseball team was looking forward to a potential matchup with Minster next week, it sure didn't show Thursday.The Knights defeated Fort Jennings 10-0 in five innings in Thursday's Division IV sectional championship game at the Crestview athletic complex.
Junior lefty Damain Helm took the mound for the Knights and didn't dissapoints. The Crestview ace went five shutout innings, allowing two hits while striking out five and walking none.
"It was vintage Damon (Helm)," said Crestview coach Jim Wharton. "It pretty much all starts with him, and he had good command. When you have Damo on the hill it gives the kids a little bit of confidence. Today he was as good as he's been, and we feel fortunate with that."
Despite the lopsided scored, the game was highly contested for the most part, before the Knights broke free for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game in run-rule fashion.
Senior Kurt Warnecke, the only senior on the Musketeer roster, held the Crestview bats at bay through the first four innings.
Of the 10 Knight runs, only six were earned due to four Fort Jennings errors, each of which was costly.
"We had our senior pitch his tail off and the guys didn't back him up today. If we didn't make the errors it would have been a 1-0 game going into the fifth inning," said Fort Jennings coach Eric Schwab.
Crestview (15-5) struck for a pair of runs in the first. Junior center fielder Cam Etzler singled and stole second, before Helm reached on the first Musketeer error, and also stole second.
Junior shortstop Bryce Richardson then scored Etzler when he hit into a fielder's choice, and senior first baseman Jake Harmon scored Helm on a sacrafice fly to center.
Crestview scratched across another unearned run in the second when senior left fielder Venice Roberts reached on error and scored when sophomore right fielder Jordan Roop grounded out to first to make the score 3-0.
Warnecke shut out the Knights in the third and fourth innings to take the game to the fifth with Crestview still leading 3-0.
"We knew they are a fastball-hitting team, so we mixing in a lot of off-speed stuff, located the fastball well. (Kurt) did what we asked him to do, and the guys just didn't come ready to play today," added Schwab.
Through the first four, Crestview managed only four hits and one earned run on Warnecke.
"I think when high school kids get in a tournament atmosphere they want to do so well, they're flying out. That last inning we just talked about using the whole field - using the middle of the field and keeping the front side closed," explained Wharton.
The talk paid off, and the Knight bats came alive in the home fifth.
Etzler reached on an error to open the frame, and Helm scored him with an RBI triple. Richardson then walked before junior third baseman Isaiah Simerman ripped a two-run double.
Roberts then plated Simerman with an RBI single, and sophomore catcher Nate Owens reached on another error before a passed ball scored Roberts and advance Owens to third.
Finally, senior pinch hitter Nick Thomas ended the game with an RBI single which scored Owens.
To boost the Knight offense even further, Crestview base runners were a perfect 8-of-8 in stolen-base attempts on the evening.
"We knew they had a young kid behind the plate, and we knew that we could capitalize on that. We tried to take advantage of that as much as we could today," said Wharton of the aggressive base running.
Junior left fielder Dylan Van Loo and junior third baseman Alex Vetter picked up the only Fort Jennings hits, both singles.
The Knights tallied nine hits on the evening, though no better picked up multiple hits. Simerman had a double and two RBIs and Helm helped his cause with a triple and an RBI.
The Crestview win sets up the much anticipated rematch with state No. 1 Minster. Minster (21-2) defeated Crestview 4-3 en route to its second straight state championship in 2012.
"They're the two-time defending state champions and we respect them immensely," Wharton said. "It ought to be a reallt good game. We're looking forward to the opportunity to see how close we've gotten since last year. They're a great program and, until someone knocks them off, they're still number one in the state. We're going to give it everthing we can."
FORT JENNINGS 000 00x x - 0 2 4
CRESTVIEW 210 0 7x x - 10 9 1
WP - Helm
LP - Warnecke
2B - Simerman (C)
3B - Helm (c)