BEND, Ore. – The Knights edged Bend 4-3 at Vince Genna Stadium to assume sole possession of first place in the South Division of the West Coast League.
The Knights (7-2 all, 6-2 WCL) scored in the top of the ninth on an RBI groundout by Brady Rediger (Linfield) to break a 3-3 tie. Closer Chase Kaplan (pictured above), a rising senior at Kansas, then retired the Elks (5-3 WCL) in the last of the ninth to record his first save of the season.
The Elks had the tying run at second base with one out following an error and a sacrifice bunt. But Kaplan got a strikeout and then retired Derek Chapman, the WCL’s leading hitter with a .455 average, on a fly ball to center field to end the game.
Third baseman Andrew Barrera (Concordia) started the winning rally when he led off the ninth with a double. He moved to third on a single by Matt Kelly (Portland), and scored the decisive run when Rediger grounded into a force play at second base.
Tanner Howell (Dixie State) pitched two innings of scoreless relief for his first win of the season. He, Kaplan and reliever Cameron Richman (Portland) combined to allow just one hit and one run over the final six innings, with nine total strikeouts.
The Knights fell behind 2-0 in the third but rallied to tie in the fourth. Back-to-back doubles by Emilio Alcantar (Lewis-Clark State) and Jordan Qsar (Pepperdine) scored one run; Qsar moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Cole Johnson (Pacific Lutheran) groundout.
Bend retook the lead in the fifth, 3-2, but Qsar tied it again in the sixth with a solo homer. It was his fourth home run in his last five games, a span during which he has six RBIs and raised his average from .125 to .308.
Qsar, Alcantar and Barrera each had two hits, and each doubled. Rediger also doubled as the Knights banged out five extra-base hits overall.
The series concludes at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. The starter for the Knights has not been determined; Bend’s projected starter is Adam Kirk (0-1, 10.80), a freshman-to-be at Nevada-Reno.
The Knights open their home WCL schedule at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday against the Port Angeles Lefties, the WCL’s newest franchise.
It will be 99.9 KRKT Opening Night; the first 500 fans will receive a mini WCL Championship Trophy. General admission tickets for seniors on Wednesdays is $2. Wednesdays are also Spindrift Wine Cellars nights; fans can enjoy specially priced wine.
The Port Angeles series continues through Friday. The Knights then conclude their opening homestand by hosting Cowlitz on Saturday through Tuesday.