Knoch scores walk-off win over Deer Lakes

Thursday, March 28, 2019 | 9:59 PM

Knoch and Deer Lakes no longer share a section, but the longtime baseball rivals proved their meetings still can produce plenty of drama.

A back-and-forth game ended in a 6-5 Knoch walk-off win Thursday night at Kelly Automotive Park as Sean McGill scored from second base on Braden Tristani’s infield single deep into the hole at shortstop and a subsequent Deer Lakes throwing error.

“It’s always a rush to get a chance to walk it off,” Tristani said. “It’s always a chance you always dream of. But we got it done. … We’re just going to move on, play less sloppy, but we’re definitely moving on after this one.”

Two seasons ago, Deer Lakes and Knoch played a 14-inning game at Kelly Automotive Park, and extra innings appeared a possibility after Deer Lakes (2-3) tied the score with two runs in the top of the sixth.

Instead, the Knights (2-0) scored the winning run after McGill’s one-out double, an intentional walk to Eli Sutton and Tristani’s hit.

“I actually joked around with them before that last inning that we don’t have enough pitchers to go 14 again,” Knoch coach Sean O’Donnell said. “He was like, ‘We don’t, either.’ I’m glad we got it done.”

It was the second consecutive one-run win for Knoch, which beat Riverside, 10-9, in Tuesday’s season opener.

Thursday’s game had the hallmarks of early-season baseball, as Knoch and Deer Lakes combined for four errors, 15 walks and two hit batters. The Knights and Lancers traded leads and ties before the final inning.

“I think we gave maybe a couple away, but I thought the best thing about tonight was we continued to fight hard,” Deer Lakes coach Josh Tysk said. “We got down early. We get it back. Then we get down again, and we come back. That’s the key for me.”

Both teams exhibited patience at the plate. After Knoch starter Lance Cotton struck out Deer Lakes’ first four batters, the Lancers drew four walks over the second and third innings to get him out of the game.

Similarly, Knoch chased Deer Lakes starter Greg Geis in a four-run third, getting the Lancers’ lefty ace to give up five walks and five runs before exiting. Freshman Justin Brannagan took the loss, allowing the final run after four innings of relief.

“We saw him last year, and we know he’s really good,” O’Donnell said of Geis. “The second guy they brought in, that freshman, he did a nice job, too. I give our batters a lot of credit.”

Eli Sutton hit a two-run double for Knoch, and Jack Bartek added two RBIs. Josh Probst knocked in two runs for Deer Lakes.

Knoch took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after Tristani drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored when Bartek singled to right field.

Deer Lakes struck for three runs in its next at-bat, taking advantage of wildness from Cotton and aggressive baserunning.

Consecutive walks by Trey Darrah and Andrew Bokulich to begin the inning led to Probst’s RBI single with one out. Bokulich scored on a wild pitch on ball four to Cory Newman, and Probst came in when Newman attempted a steal of second and Knoch second baseman Isaac Love lost control of the ball when going for the tag.

“Their pitch count got up,” Tysk said. “We started taking some pitches. I started forcing guys to take pitches. To me, that’s just knowing the role and dictating the game in our favor. (Cotton) started to struggle. They had to take him out and make switches, and that’s our job as the offense. And Greg struggled a little on the mound tonight, too, but we have all the confidence in the world he’ll come back next week.”

Knoch answered with four runs of its own in the bottom of the third, getting a two-run double by Sutton, an RBI groundout by Bartek and a run-scoring error on Newman at shortstop.

Deer Lakes tied it again in the top of the sixth. Probst’s fielder’s choice scored one run, and the tying run came in when the return throw to first eluded first baseman Isaac Roddy. The Lancers had a runner on second base in the seventh after Will Meyer’s two-out double but couldn’t bring him in.

Guy DeLeonardis earned the win for Knoch after pitching a scoreless seventh inning in relief. The Knights used four pitchers.

“We were confident,” Tristani said. “We knew we hit off of (Brannagan) before, and we knew we could do it again. So we didn’t waste any time.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, or via Twitter .

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