Big Knight in Wheatland

Harrison Epstein photo
Catcher Bryston Jennings barehands the throw from the outfield during the first game in Wheatland before catching another runner on the basepaths.

Harrison Epstein

“Who’s gonna put one in the sprinklers?”
The joke made its way through the Glenrock dugout when, midway through the first game between the Glenrock Knights and the Wheatland Lobos, the sprinklers came on over the left-field fence.
The question was answered in the fourth inning of the first game when catcher Bryston Jennings hit a grand slam to give his team a 6-2 lead.
They went on to win the game 14-13 and took the second game 13-8. It was their first sweep of the season and came as the visiting team in Wheatland.
Without head coach Allen Jennings, who was away on work, the team looked to their assistant coaches to lead the way.
“They really came together as a team and just showed how tough they are mentally and that’s something we’ve been gearing our practices toward,” infield coach Allen Holmes said.
Opening the day, the Knights went with Jake Redman on the pitcher’s mound. Wheatland got on the scoreboard right away in the bottom of the first inning. It took the Knights until the third inning to score their first run.
Shortstop Aidan Orozco knocked an RBI single that scored Gavin Swanson to get Glenrock on the board. The top of the fourth inning is where the Knights seized the game.
Another RBI hit from Orozco, this time scoring left fielder Cade Griffitts, led the way for Bryston Jennings’ grand slam off the scoreboard.
“It was right down the pipe, just a fastball and I thought, ‘Why not take this one?’ It was the first pitch and it went,” Jennings said.
After taking his sweet time trotting the bases and celebrating around home plate with his teammates, the game was back on. Kaden Jackson made his way to third base with Redman on first base. The batters distracted Wheatland’s pitcher just enough to force him into a balk, scoring Jackson. A delayed double steal allowed Redman to cross home plate later in the inning and Glenrock went to the bottom of the fourth inning leading 8-2.
Wheatland retaliated with a trio of runs, and Jennings drove in another, before infielder Larry Siegel stepped up with the bases loaded. Despite his best efforts, Siegel failed to make contact between the bat and ball.
Instead, the ball made contact with him, knocking in a run and collecting an RBI hit by pitch. With the score at 10-5, Glenrock made their first trip to the bullpen and brought in Jackson.
Jackson showcased his entire three-pitch repertoire. Despite using different arm angles for each pitch, going from highest to lowest with his fastball, knuckle curve and knuckleball, in order.
Despite keeping the hitters off-balance, the Lobos were able to scratch two runs across the plate in their first time seeing Jackson.
With nobody out in the inning, back-to-back hit by pitches on Griffitts’ upper back and Swanson’s sideloaded the bases for Orozco. He hit a double, followed by another RBI hit from Jennings to give the team a 14-7 lead.
“I was really confident every time I came up to bat. Even if I popped up or something I was confident,” Orozco said.
Wheatland came back and scored three runs in the bottom halves of the sixth and seventh innings before getting to the final at-bat. Wheatland trailed 14-13 with two runners in scoring position before Jackson struck out their final batter and clinched the opening win.
For the second leg of the doubleheader, Glenrock went with Jennings on the mound and put Hunter Blaylock behind the plate. Right away, the Knights kept their hot hitting going.
Orozco led off the game by getting on base and stole his way across the diamond before coming around for the game’s first run. In the top of the third inning, it took everyone in the Knights lineup to reclaim the lead.
Batting around in the inning, the team took a 6-3 lead into the fourth. It was the fourth where they broke the game open further. A single from Adam Bearfield and double from Jackson left the Knights with a five-run lead — if only for a brief moment.
The Lobos batters figured out Jennings’ pitches to the tune of a five-run inning of their own. With the time approaching 10 p.m., the Knights and Lobos were tied going into the game’s sixth inning.
Orozco got on base once again, scoring on another RBI single from Bearfield. Jennings then took the game into his own hands and knocked in Bearfield to take a 10-8 lead.
When the Knights retook the field, they went with a change on the mound, Siegel moved from shortstop to the pitchers mound and Jennings went behind the plate. Despite the added responsibility of being the closer, Siegel was not worried about any additional pressure.
“I know that either way, they’ll have my back so I just do the best that I can,” Siegel said.
Holding on tightly to their slim lead, the Knights were on the edge of disaster with Wheatland getting the game-tying run on first base before Siegel struck out the batter and ended the inning.
When the inning ended, it was 10:27 p.m. and according to the game’s umpires, if it was 10:30 or later they would not have started another inning. But by the grace of 180 seconds, each team would have one more opportunity to win.
Playing with reckless abandon, the Knights turned to the base paths to slam the game shut. Every time a runner reached first base they would wait no longer than two pitches before heading for second base.
With one out,  Blaylock was standing at third base as Griffitts made his lead from first. Griffitts took off for second base, leading the Lobos catcher to sail his throw into center field. Blaylock scored and Griffitts made his move for third, the center fielder’s throw sailed over third base and he came around to score as well.
With runners at the corners for the second time in the inning, Redman took the same chance at second base. This time, neither middle infielder for Wheatland made it to second base in time for the throw and Swanson was able to trot home before the center fielder could recover in time to make a throw.
Capitalizing on those defensive miscues, the Knights had a 13-8 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
They held the score and went to the bus with their first doubleheader sweep of the season. The wins give the Knights momentum going into conference play.
“I feel like if we’re mentally prepared and ready we can do it,” Jennings said.
The Knights will be in conference play until the middle of July when the season will lead into the Legion B State Tournament.


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