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It's been a long time coming. Forty-six years to be exact.
But with a 6-1 win over the Cambridge Bobcats Wednesday at Ron Tisko Field at River View High School, the West Holmes Knights captured their first Eastern District title since 1966.
The Knights (21-7) jumped on the Bobcats early, scoring twice in the first inning, and had two other two-run innings to notch the championship and advance to the Div. II Zanesville Regional today at 5 p.m., at Gant Municipal Stadium.
"Jumping on them early made a big difference," said West Holmes coach Kurt McDowell. "It made their pitcher tighten up a little bit and I think it helped us play a little looser."
Mason James grounded out to start the game, but Vayden Wood walked and Joey Gonzalez blasted a triple to the fence in right field. He scored on a single by Keaton Leppla. The Knights left the bases loaded in the first inning, as Ben Standiford sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a walk to get out of the mess.
Cambridge (24-6) scored a run in the home half of the first on a walk and two singles off junior lefty Gabe Snyder.
But that would be all the runs the Bobcats would muster off the hard-throwing lefty ace of the Knights.
Gonzalez ignited another rally with a double to start the third inning. The senior went 4-for-4 and scored three times. He scored on a Snyder single.
A wild pitch and an RBI-single by Cody Dial made it 4-1 West Holmes, but it could've been worse, as the Knights left the bases loaded again.
The Bobcats had runners on base in every inning, but each time Snyder would bear down and work out of a jam.
"I did everything I could to help get this win for our team. I don't feel like I had my best stuff completely, but my defense played great behind me," Snyder said. "They got those big plays when they needed to."
One example was in the fourth inning when the Bobcats put their first two batters on base via a bunt single and an error. Standiford lined to Knights shortstop Leppla, who snagged the shot and threw to Vayden Wood covering second to turn two and kill the rally, as the next batter flied out.
Snyder scattered seven hits in the complete-game victory. He struck out three and walked two. He also hit three batters. He wound up throwing 108 pitches.
"I've got a week off so I can rest my arm," he said.
West Holmes scored a pair of insurance runs in the seventh inning. With one out, James singled. Gonzalez ripped his fourth hit of the game, putting runners on first and second with two outs.
Leppla laced a single to center, his third hit of the day, scoring James. Cambridge center fielder Tyler Ford went down in a heap as he made a play for the ball, injuring his knee, allowing Gonzalez to score and Leppla to motor around to third. Snyder flew out to right after Ford was carted off the field, but the damage was done.