Knights Continue To Roll With 11th Straight Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 15, 2014, 20:28
Corey Johston stabilized the game with a 5.1 inning effort out of the bullpen.
CHESTER — If there is anything to be learned about Thomas Dale's baseball team with just one week left in the season, it's the Knights have no quit in them. No matter what the situation is or how dire it may seem, Thomas Dale will not give up. They have a confidence they will find a way to come-from-behind to win a game or make the necessary adjustments at the plate.
It's why the Knights never panicked after an upstart Colonial Heights team held a 6-0 lead after two innings. While most teams would wilt after seeing their No. 2 pitcher surrender two separate two-run home runs, making it through just 1.1 innings before his exit, the Knights did not.
Even after Corey Johnston surrendered a two-run blast of his own after relieving Collin Fleischer during the Colonials' four-run 2nd inning, the Knights regathered themselves outside of the dugout and refocused before taking their the field once again. And it was in that brief moment of huddling outside of the dugout, with players emphasizing how much baseball was yet to be played, where the game began to tilt in the Knights' favor.
In fact, over the next two innings, the Knights' would send 21 batters to plate while pushing across 10 runs on the strength of nine hits, including a big blow off the bat of Johnston for a three-run home run to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Johnston would bring stability to the mound as the Knights' offense seemed symbolic of the skies above, threatening at first and then as the skies opened up, so did the game. Thomas Dale would push across four more runs in the bottom of the 6th inning behind a sac-fly from Brian Goodwyn, a two-RBI single from Fleischer and a RBI double from Johnston to capture a 14-6 victory over the Colonials.
"Of course when you get down 6-0, you worry a little bit, but I knew we would get back in it," manager Chris Marshall said after his team's 11th straight win. "When we needed to hit the ball, we hit and that's the bottom line."
After the first two innings in which the Knights recorded just two base-hits, Thomas Dale would pick up 12 hits over innings No. 3 through No. 7 with production from up-and-down the lineup. There was Blake Hartman in the No. 7 hole of the lineup once again making his presence felt with a two-RBI double in the Knights' six-run 4th inning to keep the rally moving.
Then, there was Goodwyn and Fleischer's combined five-RBI night on a 4-for-8 night at the plate between the duo. And even in the No. 9 spot, Clay Dalkiewicz smashed an RBI double in the 6th inning. It's a far-cry from the beginning of the season when Thomas Dale struggled to string together hits.
During the first week of the season when the Knights fell to Matoaca, Varina and Cosby, the offense struggled to plate runs with runners in scoring position. Too often, the top-of-the-lineup produced and lower half did not or vice versa. Now, everyone is chipping in and it has led to a streak that has created a confident group that is recognizing what they can accomplish this season.
"We've been kind of moving people around trying to find the right spot in the lineup for them," Marshall said of finding the right formula. "Everyone is hitting and even on a night when the top-of-the-order isn't quite hitting it well, the bottom picks them up."
But no one picked up his team more than No. 15.
Entering the game in relief of Fleischer, Johnston surrendered a two-run home and little else over the course of the rest of the game. The junior's velocity and late-tailing movement kept the baseball off the barrel of the Colonials' bats over a 5.1 inning stint which resulted in picking up a win.
Corey Johnston's five-RBI night, including a three-run home run, helped spark the Knights.
Additionally, Johnston walked just one batter, surrendered four hits and struck-out four Colonials. Yet, his impact wasn't just limited to the mound because at the plate, he's beginning to find his confidence. Against Prince George last week, it was Johnston hitting the go-ahead two-run single in extra innings to keep the Knights' win-streak alive.
And on Thursday, his 3rd inning three-run home run on a 1-2 offering changed the entire game and set the tone for his day at the dish. Johnston would add an RBI single and a RBI double to his line total for a 3-for-5 day at the plate with 5 RBIs, essentially leading Thomas Dale to the win.
"He did a great job. He pitched well and gave our offense an opportunity to comeback," Marshall said of Johnston's pitching. "He's come up big for us a lot this. Just a great kid. Come up big at third, at the plate and on the mound when we've needed him."
It's been the story of the Knights' 11-game win streak. No matter the situation, the depth and talent of Thomas Dale's roster prevails and it's the reason why they are closing in the coveted No. 2 spot in the Conference 3 Tournament and the guaranteed bye and home playoff game which comes along with it.