Younger Kneifl tosses three-hit shutout as Wayne advances to finals

In American Legion baseball, you can never have too much pitching — no matter the age.

Coach Adam Hoffman, in his first game back after he and his wife, Ashley, welcomed their first baby on Sunday, turned to 13-year-old Brooks Kneifl to handle the pitching duties for the Wayne Post 43 Juniors, and the youngster came through brilliantly.

Kneifl got in trouble only once in seven innings and twirled a masterful three-hit shutout of host Columbus Lakeview to keep Wayne as the only unbeaten in the American Legion Class B Juniors state tournament with a 4-0 win Wednesday at Pawnee Park.

The win moves the 23-4 Juniors into Thursday’s 5 p.m. final with Hickman as the only undefeated team left in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament. Hickman lost to Wayne on Monday and came back to beat Ashland 9-0 to set up the rematch for all the marbles, with Hickman needing to win two games to Wayne’s one.

Throwing the younger of the two Kneifl brothers on the team allows Hoffman to have almost a full complement of pitching, with Kneifl’s older brother Jacob, Josh Lutt, Victor Kniesche, Tyrus Eischeid and Drew Buck all having a full complement of two appearances and 105 pitches for Thursday’s final.

“That was huge, we really needed that,” Hoffman said after the game. “You can never have too many good pitching performances in the state tournament and we got one tonight and it was what we needed to set us up for (Thursday).”

Wayne got all they would need on offense in the first inning. Josh Lutt singled and scored on a passed ball, and Gunnar Jorgensen delivered a two-out double to score Hagan Miller and Jacob Kneifl to give Wayne a 3-0 lead after one inning.

Brooks Kneifl kept Lakeview guessing all night, getting in trouble only once after back-to-back infield singles and an error with two out in the fifth put runners on the corners. Kneifl induced a ground ball to Lutt at shortstop to get out of the jam and Lakeview didn’t threaten again.

“Even in the fifth inning, one of those was a tough play but we kept the ball in the infield and that makes it easier for the pitcher when the defense plays like that,” Hoffman said. “You don’t have to try to strike everybody out and get your own outs because you know you’ve got guys behind you who can play.”

Kneifl finished with a three-hit shutout, striking out five and allowing two walks and one hit batter. His offense helped out with nine hits, three coming from Miller. Reid Korth and Victor Kniesche each had a double and a single.

Hoffman said he would decide Thursday on who will get the ball for the 5 p.m. rematch with Hickman, who lost to Wayne 4-3 on Monday with Trevor DeBoer on the hill.

“We have a bunch of options we can go with,” Hoffman said. “We’re set up and we just have to come out and play good defense, pitch to contact and hit the ball well.”

“We told the kids coming in that it’s going to take all 14 of us to win it, and I believe all 14 have gotten in and done something for us and that’s just awesome,” he added. “We’ve had great team wins every night and now we just have to get one more tomorrow.”

The Wayne Herald

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