Chad Knight is 'Mr. Clutch' for Westport All-Stars
Updated 11:23 am, Saturday, August 24, 2013
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- After playing hero yet again, Chad Knight sat shoulder to shoulder with his teammates inside the press room at Lamade Stadium and fielded a question about his game-winning single.
Knight, with Alex Reiner to his left and Ricky Offenberg on his right, didn't care to paint a vague picture.
In his fifth-inning at-bat, he had blasted a towering home run over the fence in left-center, helping Westport stage a dramatic rally from 13-6 down. And then in the seventh, with the winning run standing just 60 feet away, he laced a laced a single to left -- after which he was mobbed by his teammates.
Admittedly nervous, Knight delivered in the clutch yet again for Westport.
"Going up to the plate, I was a little nervous," he said Friday after the 14-13, seven-inning defeat of Sammamish, Wash. "But I realized it was just like any other at-bat. Just go up there and try to put the ball in play."
On Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Knight's challenge on the diamond will be daunting -- perhaps the most daunting yet.
For the first time since Trumbull's miracle run to the LLWS title in 1989, a team from Connecticut will be playing for a U.S. title in South Williamsport, Pa. And Knight, Mr. Clutch, will fittingly draw the start on the mound.
He's already done so once before against Chula Vista, Calif. this week, tossing 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball. That night, his stint was cut short at 53 pitches to ensure his availability on Saturday. California ultimately rallied to tie it an inning later, then pulled out a 6-3 win in the ninth.
But on Saturday, in front of a stadium that's likely to be packed to the gills, Knight won't be leaving early -- at least he doesn't expect to. He's eligible for the maximum 85 pitches against a lineup that's done nothing but mash the ball in its LLWS three wins.
Displaying impressive pop, California's plated 24 runs in its three games. It homered three times on Wednesday -- one of those coming off the bat of Grant Holman in the ninth inning.
"We know they're good. They were probably favored, them and (Corpus Christi, Texas), coming into this whole thing," Westport manager Tim Rogers said. "But we'll go to battle with Chad against anybody. And we'll see where we go."
But Knight, as cool and collective as they come, has pitched big in big games before. After all, he was the one to get Westport to the LLWS, twirling a one-hit, 14-strikeout masterpiece against Rhode Island in the New England championship.
"I'm really excited for it," he said. "From today I think we got a lot of momentum going into tomorrow's game. We're going to be really fired up."
Rogers is hoping Knight can ride that momentum on Westport's biggest stage yet.
"Eighty-five pitches for Chad should get him easily into the fifth," Rogers said. "Then we have Charlie (Roof) and Alex available. A guy we haven't used but can really throw the ball is Matt Brown."
Knight's opponent on the mound is likely to be right-hander Nick Mora, who's made one start at the LLWS (four innings, three runs in a 15-3 win over Newark, Del.). That means no Holman, the 6-foot-4 flamethrower who struck out 10 on 66 pitches on Wednesday. He's not eligible to pitch until Sunday.
Although the first meeting with Chula Vista didn't turn out the way Westport had wanted, it's clearly not bothering them.
"I think that got us just really motivated," Knight said. "I think we came back today just thinking, `We've been down before, why don't we just come battle back?'"
Dbonjour@scni.com; 203-255-4561 ext 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour