The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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In 81 seasons, Clay High School's baseball program had three varsity head coaches.

That number will increase to four next month, following the resignation of coach Karl Knierim, who led Clay's successful program for the past 13 years. Knierim resigned in mid-December.

"It's kind of sad to go," Knierim said. "I'm just a little burned out and I just need to step back from being the head coach for a little while. I'd certainly like to stay with the program if it can be worked out. The kids have been great with me, and the administration has been very supportive. I have no qualms with any of that."

Clay Athletic Director Mike Donnelly said, according to the school district's policy, the baseball coaching position was posted within the Clay school district and one candidate was interviewed for the job.

"We decided we're going to stay in-house," Donnelly said. "Our recommendation is for Garry Isbell, who has been Karl's assistant for the past eight years and has been a football assistant for the past three years."

Donnelly said the Oregon Board of Education will vote on his recommendation to hire Isbell during its Feb. 17 meeting.

Knierim said Isbell is a good candidate to be his successor.

pic-knerim

"Garry is very committed and he's been around long enough that he understands the pulse of the program, and that's important for anybody coming in," Knierim said. "He knows the kids and has a very good rapport with the kids. I think he will do just fine and keep the program moving in a positive direction."

Knierim had a 235-105 record with the Eagles, including 17-8 last season when they won the City League championship. Clay also won the CL title in 2007 and advanced to the regional tournament in 1997, 2006 and 2007.

The Eagles, who jumped from the Great Lakes League to the CL in 2003, won three GLL titles under Knierim.

Clay began playing baseball in 1928 and hasn't had any difficulty retaining its head coaches. Harold Potter had a 472-277 record with the Eagles from 1928-74, while Dick Kandik was 438-164 from 1975-96. Knierim took over in 1997.

Clay has had 10 players drafted by Major League Baseball, the second-highest  total in Ohio behind Cincinnati Moeller's 33 players.

Three of those 10 athletes drafted out of Clay played for Knierim - pitchers Aaron Franke (1997 Clay grad) and Justin Thomas (2002) and infielder Derek Spencer (2006), who decided to play at Bowling Green State University. Spencer, a third baseman/shortstop, was a second-team All-Mid-American Conference selection in 2009.

Knierim said he would be "hard-pressed" to say which of his Eagles teams stood out above the rest.

"There have been so many solid teams and solid players that we've had in the program throughout the years," he said. "Everybody just made a lot of positive contributions to our success. Those contributions have come in a lot of forms."

Clay has the fifth-most baseball victories in Ohio prep history. The Eagles, with an all-time record of 1,145-546 from 1928-2009, trail only Cincinnati Elder, which started playing baseball in 1924, Coldwater (1950), Steubenville (1900) and St. Henry (1934).

Clay has appeared in one state tournament, when Kandik's squad won the 1979 Class AAA state title with a 3-2 win over Euclid. The Eagles finished 25-2 that season while Euclid finished 30-4.

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