Briley Knight had a hit Tuesday night for the Corvallis Knights of the West Coast League at Goss Stadium at Coleman Field.
Wednesday afternoon, the reigning Class 5A player of the year took the mound at Legion Field as the starting pitcher for the Mid-Valley Southpaws in the championship game of the American Legion baseball AAA state tournament.
He also batted leadoff for the Southpaws and displayed the speed on the bases that helped earn him a scholarship to Utah of the Pac-12 Conference. His appearance in the state tournament was shortened when Medford left-hander Jacob Melton hit Knight in his right arm.
Knight left the game after scoring for the second time, and he was gone from the ballpark long before Mid-Valley finished off a 6-2 victory over the four-time state champion Mustangs.
Mid-Valley won its first Legion state title in 64 years — an Albany team won the crown in 1954 — but could lose it over the gifted Knight’s status with the Southpaws.
While listed on Mid-Valley’s team roster submitted to the national offices, he wasn’t included on the roster submitted to The News-Review before the tournament. He was a no-show for the Legion tournament until championship day, when the national American Legion body approved him to play, but appeared to be ignorant of Knight’s status as an active player on the team his father Brooke Knight coaches in Corvallis.
Seeing Knight on the lineup card was a bit of a surprise for the Mustangs, who were bidding for an unprecedented fifth straight state title but instead took two straight losses to Area 3 teams in Corvallis (on Tuesday) and Mid-Valley.
“He hasn’t been here all tournament, he even played the (Knights’) last game,” Medford manager Nate Mayben said. “Then he’s pitching here and the leadoff hitter.”
Knight wasn’t an individual world beater, but for a team that had just ousted arch-rival Corvallis 4-3 behind a complete-game pitching effort from Jayce Lien, Knight may well have been the spark that had Mid-Valley believing it could handle a Medford lineup that had blasted it 12-0 on Sunday.
“He’s a good player and anytime you get a spark like that it will help your club,” Southpaws coach Troy Babbitt said. “We were already sparking pretty good, but that just lit us up more.”
Medford’s Brennan Watts did get a one-out single in the top of the first off of Knight, and advanced as far as third on a groundout and a wild pitch, but Knight and the Southpaws defense refused to surrender any runs.
Knight then led off the bottom of the first with a single to left, and he scored on Adam Rappe’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly.
Medford starter Jacob Melton gave up four earned runs (five overall) on five hits with six walks and two hit batters in four innings. He did strike out four.
Knight, meanwhile, gave up three hits and one walk while striking out four. He carried a 2-0 lead into the fourth, when the Southpaws broke through for three more runs, but also lost Knight for the rest of the game.
Melton lost his control in the bottom of the fourth, hitting Caleb Beach in the back and then hitting Knight in the pitching arm — Knight bats left but throws right — and it was almost immediately obvious that something was wrong.
“He got hit and his arm went dead, he couldn’t lift his arm,” Babbitt said. “His father wanted to get him to the doctor and have that looked at right now.”
Knight’s absence at the end of the game drew a number of comments from Medford fans. As his status with the Knights became clearer, there was talk of filing an appeal of the decision to allow him to play.
Having Knight on the field — his spot in the lineup was taken by Lien, while Kevin Crowell and Cade Perrizo staffed up the final three innings — helped get the Southpaws a 5-0 lead after four innings.
“He had to come out of the game,” Babbitt said. “It’s an injury and obviously he’s a high-profile guy and they want to have it looked at.”
That left Medford with the choice to file an appeal or to let the result stand. The Mustangs eventual decision was file the appeal, which will likely be resolved sometime Thursday.
The Northwest Region 7 tournament will begin Aug. 8 with the Oregon champion facing the Washington champ in Missoula, Montana.
Medford committed four errors, and allowed 10 baserunners by means of walk or hit by pitch. Melton was not particularly sharp and needed 96 pitches to get through four innings.
“Errors happen, but what really hurt us was four of their six runs were put on by walk or hit by pitch,” Mayben said. “That hurt us a bunch.”
Mid-Valley, meanwhile, found ways to escape jams twice with minimal damage.
Even when Medford finally broke through with two runs in the fifth the Southpaws negated what could have been a much bigger inning with defense, and answered on offense themselves.
“If they put up two and you immediately halve that right away, it definitely helps you,” Babbitt said.
Mid-Valley twice turned doubleplays to kill Medford rallies.
Babbitt defended Knight’s role with the Southpaws, placing the weight of the situation on state chairman Ronnie Long.
“This has been cleared since we did our rosters and submitted our rosters,” Babbitt said. “That’s Ron’s job to take care of that and they took care of all of that.”
There was less question about Knight’s sudden appearance at the tournament Wednesday night than with his actual eligibility to play for Mid-Valley. Legion rules make it clear that a player can only participate for one team from the time a postseason championship tournament begins.
The state tournament began Saturday at Legion Field; Knight played as recently as Tuesday night for the Knights. In a recent profile of the former Crescent Valley star, posted by OregonLive on July 30, there is no mention of his playing for Mid-Valley; the entire article focuses on his development as a member of the Corvallis Knights.
Babbitt confirmed that Knight joined the Southpaws on Wednesday at the tournament.
Medford 000 020 0 — 2 6 4
MidValley 200 310 x — 6 7 1
Melton, Sandoval (5), Buchanan (6) and B. Thompson, Geyer (5); Knight, Crowell (5), Perrizo (5) and Cyrus. WP — Knight. LP — Melton. Sv — Perrizo. 2B — Lien (M.V.)
Hitting — Med. 6-26 (Johnson 0-3, Watts 1-4, Melton 1-2, J. Thompson 1-3, Geyer 0-3, Gassman 0-3, Baptiste 1-3, Ankeny 1-3, B. Thompson 1-3, Sandoval 0-1), M.V. 7-24 (Knight 1-2, Lien 1-1, Perrizo 0-1, Holder 2-4, Rappe 1-3, Crowell 1-2, Cyrus 0-1, Hartsell 1-4, Bliss 0-3, Spevacek 0-1, Beach 0-2). RBIs — Med. 2 (Watts, Melton), M.V. 4 (Perrizo, Holder, Rappe 2).