KRE Tops Franklin in Wild Junior League Affair

| July 10, 2018

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – In a game right out of the wild, wild west, KRE (Knox-Rimersburg-Emlenton) blew a 10-run lead but ended up rallying for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off Franklin, 14-13, in the loser’s bracket finals of the District 25 Junior League (13-14 Years Old) Tournament at Weaver Park in Clarion Monday night.

(The Knox coaches discuss their next game with the District 25 rep following the wild win over Franklin Monday night)

“I told the boys they were about to give me and the other two coaches, Bud and Tom, heart attacks,” KRE manager Jim “Gumby” O’Neil said. “But these were two good groups of young men. I know quite a few of those boys from Franklin, too. They gave the fans their monies worth.”

KRE, which led 11-1 going to the fifth inning and needed just three outs to end the game on the 10-run Mercy rule, ended up being the team that came from behind to get the victory after Franklin scored 12 runs in its final three at-bats, including two in the top of the seventh, to take a 13-11 lead.

But in the bottom of the seventh, Nick Cosper’s fly ball to left-center with the bases loaded and KRE down 13-12 field hit off the glove of the left fielder and then hung in the air and was nearly caught by the centerfielder before dropping to the ground allowing both Ryan Cooper to score from third to tie the game and Gary Amsler to score from second to win the game.

The seventh-inning rally started with of all things a strikeout by Cooper O’Neil that should have ended the game.

Travis Knupp, who pitched 3 ⅔ strong innings of relief for Franklin to keep his team in the game after it fell behind 11-1, struck out Jason Merryman and Kyle Nellis to start the seventh and then whiffed O’Neil. But the ball was in the dirt and went to the backstop, and O’Neil hustled down to first and was safe when the throw to first was wild.

“That’s what I expect of him and what he knows he has to do,” Gumby O’Neil, Cooper’s dad and manager, said. “We have worked on that third strike since Little League. You have to take advantage of everything. He is not the quickest kid on the field.”

Ryan Cooper followed the strikeout/wild pitch with the hardest hit ball of the night doubling to deep centerfield to put runners on second and third and give KRE life.

“I was huge,” Gumby O’Neil said of the Cooper double. “He is in that No. 4 spot for a reason. He is capable of that. He has been doing that all year against us (in the regular season). Finally, he is doing that for me.”

After the Cooper double, Amsler, who started the game in left field but was removed in the second inning after his back tightened up, came off the bench to draw a walk to load the bases.

“Amsler came out of the game because he has back spasms,” Gumby O’Neil said. “We hit him with some cream and some ibuprofen, and he said “coach, I’m ready to go back in.’ We needed his bat.”

After the Amsler walk, Bailey Crissman came to the plate most likely thinking of the two unearned runs he had allowed in the top of the inning to give Franklin its first lead of the game.

Crissman worked the count full before fouling off a pitch and then taking ball four to drive home Cooper O’Neil to bring KRE back within a run.

“That says a lot about a young man and his coaching before he came to me,” Gumby O’Neil said of the Crissman at-bat. “That kid is a battler, calm, cool, collected.”

Things started well for KRE, as it sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored nine runs on three hits, two Franklin errors, five walks and a hit batter to take a 9-0 lead.

RBIs in the frame came from Amsler and Cosper on bases-loaded walks and O’Neil on a two-run single that closed out the scoring in the inning.

Franklin got a run back in the top of the second when Trevor Hamilton scored on a wild pitch, but KRE answered with two more in the bottom of the second on a two-run, two-out single to center by Merryman after Franklin had turned a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and no outs.

The score remained that way going to the fifth inning, and all KRE needed were three outs without Franklin scoring to put the game away in five innings thanks to the 10-run Mercy Rule.

But Franklin had other ideas.

Cameron King led off the fifth with a walk, and Dominic Antonucci followed with a single. When Michael Shields reached on an infield single, the bases were loaded, and Knupp kept the game alive with a single to center that drove in one with Antonucci coming around to score on an error. Back-to-back walks to Noah Taylor and Hamilton then made it 11-4 with no outs.

Seth Best was able to wiggle out of trouble without further damage by getting a popup and then a double play to end the inning.

Down 11-4, Franklin tied the game with seven runs in the sixth on just three hits taking advantage of seven KRE walks, four by Nellis, two by Cosper and one by Crissman to knot the contest.

Wyatt Gregory started the rally with a single to left, and King walked. After a groundout that moved the runners to second and third, Shields walked to load the bases and Knupp picked up his second RBI with a base hit to left. Taylor then walked to make it 11-6, and Hamilton reached on an infield single to make it 11-7. Jake Hornbeck followed with a walk to make it 11-8, and Cosper came in to relieve Nellis but walked both Wes Bell and Gregory to make it 11-10.

Crissman was then summoned from right field to take the mound and got King to hit an infield fly for the second out but walked Antonucci to tie the game at 11-11.

“Walks come back to bite you,” Gumby O’Neil said. “That is what got them back in the game. We put our foot on the gas and let off and let them hang around. That happens, but they found the gas pedal again.”

After walking Antonucci to tie the game, Crissman was then 3-2 on Shields before striking him out to preserve the tie.

“We brought him in on the mound in a very terrible situation,” Gumby O’Neil said. “No sweat, he worked himself out of it.”

Crissman couldn’t work around two errors in the top of the seventh, though, as Franklin took the lead.

After getting Knupp to fly out to right to start the inning, Crissman induced another fly ball, this time from Taylor, but the ball was misplayed allowing Taylor to reach. Hamilton then grounded a ball to first that got past the first baseman into right field for another error, and a run scored when the throw from right was wild with Hamilton taking second on the play. Hornbeck then moved Hamilton to third on a single to left, and Bell drove him home with a groundout to shortstop to make it 13-11 Franklin.

KRE is back in action at 6 p.m. Tuesday when it travels to Pleasantville to take on Titusville. A KRE win would force a winner-take-all game for the District title immediately following the first game. If Titusville wins the 6 p.m. game, it claims the title.

“It’s actually been since my oldest son played (since KRE has gotten to this point) and he is 25,” Gumby O’Neil said. “It’s four communities coming together to put these boys on the field and give them an opportunity. I told them to have fun with it and be boys. That’s why they are here.”

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