Relive Knights' epic championship game

Norwell's baseball team won the Class 3A state baseball championship. Here are the key plays and scenes of the night from Victory Field. By Justin A. Cohn

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Norwell pitcher Josh VanMeter gave up three hits and struck out eight in a complete-game victory.

VanMeter tosses gem last time on mound

– Josh VanMeter has pitched his last game.

And what a beauty it was.

He went all seven innings, gave up three hits and struck out eight, as the Norwell Knights defeated the Jasper Wildcats 2-1 for the Class 3A state baseball championship Friday night at Victory Field.

But grieve not for the end of VanMeter’s pitching days; he has decided to forgo college – despite having a scholarship to play for Illinois State – and join the San Diego Padres’ minor-league system Monday in Arizona.

“Yep, I’ve pitched my last game. I leave Monday for Arizona, and I’ll be playing every day at shortstop, and I can’t wait for that to happen. I’m going to play professionally, … and we’ll see from there. I’ll spend some time with my family and friends this weekend and then I’ll be back in October.”

VanMeter was selected by the Padres in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft, just one week before he befuddled Jasper, from Dubois County in southern Indiana.

He batted .450 with 36 RBI, and he led the Knights with nine home runs, 14 doubles and 57 runs in 111 at-bats.

He was 0 for 1 Friday but walked twice and scored two runs in front of 3,522 fans, a Friday night record for the IHSAA.

“I’m going to start in rookie ball and then work my way up from there,” VanMeter said. “Yeah, I’m nervous. But what 18-year-old wouldn’t be, when they’re going to go live on their own for the first time? I’m excited to get going.”

He’ll miss pitching, though. He came into Friday with a 13-1 record, six complete games, a 1.39 earned-run average and 110 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings, then he proceeded to shut down the top-ranked Wildcats (32-4), who have won five state titles, two more than the third-ranked Knights.

“It will be tough (to give up the mound), but you don’t see too many 5-foot-11 guys in the MLB pitching, and I hit too well to pitch, so I’ll just be playing shortstop,” said VanMeter, who may end up playing for the Padres’ Single-A affiliate, the TinCaps, at Parkview Field.

VanMeter’s big moment Friday came in the top of the second inning. After Jasper had just gone up 1-0, he struck out Devon Traylor to strand two Wildcats runners and hush a raucous crowd on the first base side.

The Knights’ offense responded, thanks largely to their other shortstop, Jonah Patten, who was 2 for 3 and batted in runs on both hits.

“My fastball and my curveball were really my pitches today,” VanMeter said. “They had one lefty in their lineup and I was able to throw my changeup to him, but my curveball and getting ahead of them and keeping them off balance, that was the key for me.

“I couldn’t have done it without my defense, though. Without those eight guys behind me, who knows what would have happened, and I’m just thankful for every single one of them.”

jcohn@jg.net

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