Clay baseball coach Karl Knierim remains only the third coach in over three-quarters of a century of baseball at the school, and after 12 years his teams have gone 218-96.
His commitment to Clay remains strong, even though he once coached at Cardinal Stritch, too (34-17).
Under Knierim, teams have won district championships in 1984 (Stritch) and at Clay in 1997, 2006, and 2007. In 2008, Clay was 17-8 overall and 10-1 in the Toledo City League. In 2009, with five returning lettermen, the Eagles conquered another City League championship.
As a result, Knierim is the only local mentor to receive Coach of the Year honors by his respective league, and therefore earns Alan Miller Jewelers Coach of the Year honors by default.
Unlike football and basketball, in which The Press tabulates ballots from coaches and media, in baseball those persons getting honored by their league get the same honors in the All-Press selections.
But winning a conference title over perennial champions Start, St. John’s Jesuit, Central Catholic, and St. Francis DeSales makes Knierim and the Clay baseball team deserving honorees.
It was the second league title in three years for Clay (17-8), the No. 1 seed that was 10-1 in CL regular-season play for the second straight year. With the championship, it completed a sweep of CL diamond championships this year that also included the Clay softball team.
"When you talk about a total team effort, it really exemplifies this team," said Knierim, who also won three Great Lakes League titles at Clay. "It's been everybody doing their job. When you look at the City championship series, the final four City teams, that goes back to early in the season to get yourself in position to get to the final four. We've gotten a lot of contributions from everybody."
Clay senior Drew Kuns is the only local player to earn his conference’s Player of the Year award, which also translates into Alan Miller Jewelers Player of the Year.
The 6-3 Kuns, who plays first base and pitches, was hitting .434 with three home runs, 15 RBI and 27 runs as Clay headed into the CL final four. Those numbers were good enough to earn him First Team All-Ohio.
Kuns, who is headed to Bowling Green State University to play for Coach Danny Schmitz, will be the eighth Eagles baseball player to play at a Division I school in Knierim's 13 years at Clay.
"Drew is very solid and very consistent," Knierim said. "Day in and day out, he gets the job done. He's certainly one of our leaders. Kids look up to him, and that's important. Senior leadership is a must for any effective team."
Joining Kuns from Clay on the All-Press First Team is All-City senior outfielder Kyle Romstadt. But leading local schools in first team choices is Suburban Lakes League champion Genoa with four.
Projected as co-champions with Eastwood in the preseason, the Comets went through the SLL schedule unblemished.
Coach Dan Thompson's squad went 22-5 and rolled to a 14-0 league finish to win the school's third SLL title in four years. Eastwood ended up 15-8 and 10-4 in the SLL.
"We set a team record this year for runs scored and we hit the ball very well," Thompson said. "We felt we had a lineup, one through nine, where we could score runs. If anyone was in a slump, there was somebody who was coming out of a slump. We were a very balanced team this year."