Despite not having a number of players available, the Meadville Italian Civic Club baseball team opened up the American Legion season with a nearly flawless performance. The Clubbers hit, they fielded and they got a stellar no-hitter from pitcher Brody Knetsch.
On Friday night at Eldred Glen, the Meadville ICC baseball team beat Albion 11-1 in five innings.
“Those young men are absolutely tremendous,” said Meadville ICC head coach John Mottillo. “We were shorthanded. And it shows what they’re learning in high school.”
While Meadville was missing a few players in its lineup, the team didn’t skip a beat. Mainly because of a stellar workmanlike performance from Knetsch on the mound.
The pitcher cruised through the first inning with no trouble. He struck out two batters and forced a slow roller to first base.
In the second, Knetsch had his only slip-up. He walked Jakob Wassong to start the inning. After a miscue at second base, Albion had two runners on base and no outs.
After fanning another hitter, Knetsch walked Jarrod Glasl to load the bases. Jonah Hawley hit into a fielder’s choice at second, which brought home Wassong for Albion’s lone run in the contest.
Knetsch shut down the inning with another strikeout.
Albion’s lead didn’t last too long. In the bottom of the second, Jacob Smith got the first hit of the game, beating out a throw for an infield single.
Chad Neugebauer grounded out to move Smith to second. Next, Tai Hopkins reached on an error at third base and Tyler Blood drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases.
Chris Hochstetler was able to make Albion pay with a base knock into left to score Smith. Drew Stewart then worked a six-pitch RBI walk to take a 2-1 lead.
“I got a lot of good ballplayers, it makes it easy,” Mottillo said.
The Clubbers were back for more in the bottom of the third. Wyatt Barzak led off by crushing a double to the left field wall. He then scored on another infield error by Albion.
With Wyett Smith on base following the error, Neugebauer drilled a ball into left for another two-base hit. Blood brought both runners in with a liner into center field. Hochstetler also got a base hit and Landon Beck tacked on two more runs with a double of his own to make it 7-1 after three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Knetsch was very comfortable on the mound with the big lead. Nothing left the infield as he struck out a hitter and forced two groundouts. Only a walk blemished the frame.
“It makes you feel more confident on the mound knowing that you have some wiggle room out there,” said Knetsch.
Meadville kept it rolling in the fourth with four more runs. After Wyett Smith was hit by a pitch, his younger brother Jacob powered a ball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer. Jacob was razzing his brother as his strolled to the plate
“I was just giving (Wyett) a hard time because he’s never hit one. I just had to rub it in his face,” he laughed.
Neugebauer drew a walk to help the Clubbers start another rally in the fourth. Hopkins singled to get on base as well. Blood then doubled into left to bring home Neugebauer. Blood led all Meadville players with three RBIs on the night. After Hopkins got caught at the plate, Blood eventually made it around the bases to score off a groundout to make it 11-1.
Knetsch then just had to close out a scoreless fifth to seal the win, but he wanted that no-hitter too.
“I was just excited to be on the mound, playing with my best friends,” said Knetsch. “It was the first no-hitter for me.”
He got Hawley looking for the first out. Then, Knetsch got Austin Shady to send a roller to first base for out No. 2. Jacob Smith fielded Keaton Wade’s grounder at third and chucked it to first. The throw narrowly beat the speedy Wade to the bag, sealing the opening victory for the Clubbers.
“Knetsch throws strikes. In Legion, you pitch to contact and make them hit the ball,” said Mottillo.
Knetsch ended up with one unearned run on four walks, gave up no hits and fanned six hitters.
At the plate, Blood went 2-for-2 with two runs and three RBIs. Jacob Smith went 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs. Hochstetler also was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Beck also tallied two RBIs.
For his team goals the rest of the way, coach Mottillo wasn’t shy after his team’s strong performance.
“Win every game. Bring on Franklin. Bring on French Creek Valley. Bring on Lakeview,” said Mottillo. “It’s a good league. They all had great high school seasons, all those teams I mentioned.”
Jordan Hansgen can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.