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Deep pitching staff has Golden Knights thinking big

Pitching, and especially pitching depth, is essential for success in all levels of baseball. On the high school diamond, it can make all the difference, especially when weather-induced make-up games force teams to play four or more contests in a week.

Perhaps no YAIAA team this season is proving the importance of such positional depth more than Eastern York. Pitching has led a Golden Knights' squad — one that features only a handful of seniors on its roster — to an unbeaten start in Division III (7-0). The team kept that perfect mark intact after victories this week over York Suburban, previously unscathed Littlestown, and YAIAA Division IV leader Delone Catholic.

Although blessed with returning YAIAA All-Star Colby Shimmel and senior Kyle Billet, Eastern coach Blaine Garner still had to be concerned entering the season. After all, hard-throwing southpaw Terry Godfrey graduated last June and is now pitching at NCAA Division-I Delaware State.

Enter Brandon Knarr, a sophomore whose family moved into the district from Penn Manor. The lefty has twice struck out at least 16 batters in a game, including against the Thunderbolts in Wednesday's 9-3 win.

Shimmel followed that by shutting out the Division IV-leading Squires, 5-0, on Friday.

On Monday, Billet and Brandyn Fry combined to top York Suburban, 6-2.

Junior catcher Matt Taylor, who came to the Knights prior to last season, has been a valuable addition as well, especially when it comes to handling the talented staff.

"We were thought to be rebuilding and we get a move-in last year with Matt Taylor as a catcher, a huge upgrade for us. Then we get Brandon moving in and we were like, 'Hey, we can contend this year,'" Garner said. "That's what we are doing. These kids believe it."

Understandably, the team welcomed Knarr with open arms.

"Everybody has been great, the coaches, the players, friends. It's been a great experience," said Knarr, who earlier in the season fanned 17 of the 18 recorded outs in a 3-0, six-inning no-hitter against Bermudian Springs.

"My pitches were all on, the umpires were giving me everything, batters were swinging at everything. It was a good night for me. I was amazed with how everything went," said Knarr, who estimated that he threw about six varsity innings with the Comets as a freshman last season.

"Before he moved in I had no idea who he was, but I am glad he moved here," Shimmel said. "I feel like we can win a division title. We have some young guys, not a lot of experience, but we are practicing hard every day. We are putting the time in after school and I feel we can make a run."

The connection of his two aces, plus Billet and Fry, reminds Garner of Eastern's 2014 team that finished second in Division II with a 9-4 league record, coupled with a 14-8 overall mark.

"When Terry was with us, he helped guide the way for Shimmel, and the rest of the young staff we had. Now that he is gone, Shimmel is there doing the same thing working with all of our guys," the coach said. "It makes everybody better all the way around. That is what we are seeing with our team, everybody is helping everybody."

Steve Navaroli is a reporter for, and the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2060.