Wolves say: 'Leave it to Cleaver'

"Kris Cleaver went into the prep baseball season as a backup catcher who might be able to eat up some innings as a relief pitcher.The South Kitsap High School junior didn't make his first appearance on the mound until the ninth game of the season on April 4.Three weeks later, Cleaver has not only earned a spot in the starting rotation but he's emerged as the team's ace.In 17 innings, Cleaver has given up only two earned runs.Most recently, he mowed down the Stadium Tigers in an important Narrows League game April 19.He threw a complete game without giving up an earned run and struck out 10 batters en route to a 6-1 victory.Dan Knox, a crafty lefthander, has also earned a spot at the top of the rotation.Other than one poor outing against Wilson April 9, Knox has been nearly flawless.While SK coach Elton Goodwin has had good performances from other starters such as Travis Vetters and Boya Quichocho, the two pitchers that have shown the most consistency are Cleaver and Knox.In must-win games against Stadium and Capital (April 20), Cleaver and Knox came through with complete game wins.Cleaver totally dominated, Goodwin said. He struck out 10, walked two guys. He threw 99 pitches and 65 went for strikes. One day later Knox struck out five batters and threw only 77 pitches in seven innings as SK (7-3 NL, 10-4 overall) avenged an earlier loss to Capital (8-2 NL) with a 6-3 win.Knox showed savvy on the mound.He went the first five inning unscathed before giving up a run in the sixth and two runs in the seventh. But he battled out of the inning to preserve the win.Offensively, senior Dominic Rio came through with two runs batted in against Stadium and four runs batted in against Capital.Knox got in a little trouble in the seventh but he worked himself out of it, Goodwin said. Other than that, he was totally in control. He basically shut them down.Goodwin could sum up the play of Cleaver and Knox with two words: Just huge.While Knox hasn't been a shocker to Goodwin, Cleaver has been a pleasant surprise.Knox has been steady for us all year, he said. Cleaver is the bonus. He's only given up two runs.This is another crucial week for the Wolves, who entered this week only one game behind Capital for first place in the league.SK travels to Silverdale today at 3:30 p.m. in a non-league rematch with Olympic, which handed SK a 7-5 loss two weeks ago.While the team looks forward to the rematch, Goodwin is lining up his best pitching matchups for games against Bellarmine and Stadium.Goodwin said Cleaver will pitch at Bellarmine Thursday and Knox will face the same Stadium team he baffled last week Friday at SK's Buck Gehring Field.SK used pitching by committee Saturday in a 4-1 non-league home win against Auburn.Vetters, Quichocho, and Jason Stuart combined to give up just one run.All SK runs were unearned but the pitching and defense held Auburn to five hits.Goodwin said the keys to SK's success has been the pitching.When you have solid pitching, your defense plays a little bit better, he said, and we're starting to put things together our way instead of against us. "

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