One final Clermont County squad earned a knothole baseball title last week, bringing the 2018 season to a close.
The Goshen Gators became the third county team to sweep the city and county titles, defeating the Mt. Orab Outlaws to win the title on July 17, 2018. With the win, the team joins the Amelia Defenders and Milford Scorpions as squads to pull off the sweep this season.
Ten total Clermont squads won championships this year, starting with the Amelia Inferno in Class D Jr. Gold Division play. The Inferno, co-managed by David Gast and Dustin Meadors, defeated the Goshen Braves to win the title.
“This was a fairytale season,” Meadors said. “These boys were undefeated in regular-season and tournament play a year ago in [the] D Instructional [league]. They had a target on their back from day one this season and never flinched. This team is a top-to-bottom team. We have four kids who should be playing with younger teams, and you would never be able to tell which ones they are. No matter who is up with the game on the line, we know they’ll come through.”
Gast agreed, noting the amount of work put in by each player on the team.
“My fellow coaches and I had the privilege of coaching a group of very talented individuals this season,” Gast said. “These young men are not just great baseball players, but they have great attitudes and wonderful parents. We practice once each week for an hour and a half. Due to great kids and unbelievable parents it was very common for most players to stay an hour or an hour and a half extra each practice night just for the love of the game. If you don’t believe hard work pays off these boys are living proof that it does. Everyone wants instant gratification these days without putting forth effort. Not these boys. No amount of money can buy what they gave all of us this season: Pride.”
The Williamsburg Wildcats won the Class D Jr. Silver Division title, overcoming an 0-6 start to win the next 10 games.
“Our team really came together as a team to win those games,” head coach Rob Nicely said. “The kids were really willing to put the work in to get better and it showed from where we started to where we ended up. Their attitude was first class and they showed great teamwork. I was proud to have coached them.”
In the Class D Sr. Gold Division, the Tealtown Strykers took home the hardware. The Milford SWAT Team won the Silver Division title, and head coach Mike McEntush said the squad overcame a lack of experience in its second year of play.
“The team had eight new players that did not have knothole experience,” McEntush said. “We started out 0-8 but the kids never got down or lost the love of the game. They continued to grind and practice hard until things started to turn around. We finished the second half of the season 10-2, avenging both loses against the Goshen Dawgs in the championship game. It was a pleasure coaching these kids as they were willing to continue to work hard to get better. This was a true definition of a team, as each kid played for each other every game and picked each other up.”
Another Milford squad won the Class C Jr. Gold Division title. The Milford Razorbacks, led by Jeff Gentil, defeated the Tealtown Raptors in Mt. Orab to win the title. Gentil said the team came into this season looking to avenge a loss in the title game last year, and the squad did just that.
“Our team lost in the championship last year, so this year we had unfinished business,” Gentil said. “It was a long but exciting season. Our boys are awesome on and off the field, and as coaches we basically sat back and watched them do their thing. Every time they faced adversity, they rallied around each other and someone always came through with a clutch hit or great defensive play.”
In the Silver Division, the Goshen Reds emerged victorious after placing second in the county tournament last season. Coach Mark Lemmel said the team entered this season looking to come out on top.
“There was a lot of determination to win it this year,” Lemmel said. “We came in second in the league standings to Amelia Avengers, with a 7-1 record and proceeded to go 6-1 in the tournament to become champions. After losing to the Bethel Dynamite, the boys hit and pitched their way back to defeat New Richmond River Hitters, Tealtown Squatches, and the Amelia Avengers, to get another chance at beating Bethel twice. All the victories were won by “run ruling” our opponent, as the Reds left no doubt who the champion was!”
Lemmel said every player on the team played a key role, as the squad was down a few players for the tournament. Chad Dannemiller, Colin Lewis and Sojo Levendecker pitched for the team, while Chace Martin handled catching duties. Lemmel credited Hayden Johnson, Carson Klaus, Nick Lemmel, Jackson Luman, Cohen Sizemore and Ethan Tudor on their timely hitting, and praised the entire team for the way the squad fielded the ball.
The Milford Scorpions won the Class B Sr. title. In Class A Jr. play, the Goshen Rebels came out on top. Head coach Phil Johnson thanked every player for the way they did their job this past season: Anthony Lageman (starting pitcher), Tommy Wilson (catcher), Jarrett Foxx (relief pitcher), James Compton (shortstop), Dylan Johnson (first base), Blake Luthy (second base), Connor Hellenthal (third base/backup catcher), Jacob McKinney (left field), Reilly Shumard (center field) and Keagan Hacker (right field). Coach Johnson credited the team’s ability to not give up on the game.
“We had a team that never gave up and kept playing,” Johnson said. “I was blessed to be able coach such a great team this year. Thanks for such a great year boys.”
Editor’s note: For more photos of championship-winning knothole baseball teams, check out the July 12 (A Jr., D Sr. Gold/Silver, D Jr. Silver) and July 19 (B Sr., B Jr., C Jr. Gold/Silver) editions of The Clermont Sun.