COLUMBUS GROVE — And then there was one.
Crestview stands alone at the top of the Northwest Conference, unbeaten at 7-0, after the Bulldogs knocked off previously unbeaten Columbus Grove 8-5 Friday night at Columbus Grove.
The Knights (11-3 overall) got stellar pitching and timely hitting throughout the lineup, and those two were enough to offset the seven errors the Crestview defense committed.
“That (defense) has been our Achilles’ heel all season,” veteran Crestview coach Jim Wharton said. “I told the kids to slow down. They were taking their eye off the ball. Some games you just don’t make the defensive plays, we were fortunate because good things usually don’t happen when your linescore ends with a seven.”
Excellent pitching from winner Bryce Richardson and 1 2/3 innings of relief from Damian Helm was enough for the Knights to overcome the sloppy fielding.
That pitching effort and 12 hits by the Crestview offense kept the Bulldogs on their heels the entire game.
Three hits by shortstop Cameron Etzler and three more with three runs batted in from the bat of Jordan Roop led the offense. First baseman Jake Harmon had a big double in the third inning that drove in two runs and gave the Knights a 3-2 lead they would never surrender.
Columbus Grove (14-3, 4-1 NWC) started Josh Verhoff on the mound and he went 5 1/3 innings before Elisha Jones came in and finished the contest. Verhoff gave up six runs, five earned, during his stint on the mound.
The right-handed Richardson kept Columbus Grove offbalance with a big curve he was able to throw for strikes. The big left-hander Helm then came in and finished the game for Crestview.
“Richardson did great and then Helm came in and finished it off,” Wharton said. “Our pitching has been doing a really good job.”
Columbus Grove managed nine hits against the Crestview duo but many of those came with two outs, and the Bulldogs never were able to get that one key hit.
Right-fielder Brady Shafer led the Bulldogs offense with two hits.
“They got on base early and we seemed to be getting on with two outs,” Columbus Grove coach Cory King said. “We were always a little behind tonight but their pitchers did a good job of getting ahead and keeping us offbalance. We need a little help (in the league title chase) but we need to win out.”
The Bulldogs play host to Lima Central Catholic (13-7, 6-1) Monday night in a huge game for both teams.
The Knights are alone in first place but Wharton knows the title chase is far from over as Crestview plays host to Delphos Jefferson on Monday before traveling to meet LCC on Thursday.
“This was a big win for us although very unusual with all the errors,” Wharton said. “We have two big league games coming up next week.”