BY DEAN HOCKNEY
GREENTOWN – Going into the championship game of the David A. Kasey Memorial Howard County Youth Baseball Tournament, many referred to the game as a David versus Goliath contest. The David in this match-up was Expressions, the Northwestern regular season champion that scored a lot of tournament runs against lesser competition. The Goliath was defending tournament champion and undefeated Hollingsworth Lumber from Russiaville, a squad that had already dispatched two league champions out of the tourney and was ripe to earn a third overall crown.
With the odds stacked against it, Expressions ended Hollingsworth’s bid for a perfect season, winning the title game 6-4 in a game played at the Greentown Youth Baseball League.
“We came into the tournament last year at 19-0, so it feels pretty good to be on top,” said Expressions manager Matt Good. “We have made some deep runs, and these guys have been part of it, so I think that has helped.”
Expressions (22-2) entered the game having outscored its tournament competition 65-9 – but those four wins came against three teams with losing records and a fourth barely over .500. Hollingsworth (24-1), on the other hand, had defeated the top two teams from Southside, the champ from Greentown and the runner-up from Russiaville – a resume worthy of a perfect record. But games are played for a reason, and Expressions showed why that is true.
“We just wanted a chance,” said Matt Good. “We think we can hit the ball pretty well and our game plan was to come out early and take some of their steam away being defending champions; I thought we did that. I thought we got pitches to hit early in the count, got a lead and then Ty (Good) put the hammer on them. All in all, our game plan was about what we wanted.”
Expressions jumped to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, led 4-1 after three innings and nearly put the game away with two more in the top of the fourth. In the key third inning of the Kokomo Tribune sponsored tourney, Braxton Leach ripped a two-run single which turned into one of the biggest hits of the game. Kai Jackson – who had three hits in the semi-final win – reached base four times, scoring three runs to lead the offense. In the championship game, he reached on a bunt single, base on balls and twice by getting hit with a pitch.
“Kai’s a tough nut,” Matt Good said. “He’ll get on base any way he can. He will take pitches off the leg, off the foot; whatever it takes. He runs the bases really, really well. When we get him on and we can follow it up with our big hitters, things go pretty well for us.”
Jackson said he works hard at getting on base, even if it means a painful conclusion after being hit with a pitch.
“This feels pretty good. I didn’t think we would get here because at the beginning of the year (we struggled), but we got better as we went on,” said Jackson. “I have been hit five times in the last two games. I just want to get on. I have a coach that works me hard and encourages me to get better.”
Others with base hits for Expressions were Jansen Slate, Ty Good and Noland Adams. The new champs scored four of its runs on wild pitches and passed balls.
While the Expressions bats were working well, Ty Good stood on the hill and pitched a solid complete game for the win. He held Hollingsworth to five hits while recording eight strikeouts. The final out of the game was recorded on the last batter Ty Good could face due to pitch-count rules. Ironically, this was one of his few outings this season due to arm issues.
“Ty’s arm has been bothering him all year so we kind of shut him down,” Matt Good said of his son. “We didn’t let him throw for four weeks, hoping we’d get him in this situation. I thought he battled. I don’t know if his fastball had the jump it had, but he located well and used his off-speed and our defense played great. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Ty Good said he was not counting his pitches and was ready to throw more despite the early-season arm issues.
“We came out, put our all in and we got it,” said Ty Good. “I didn’t know how many pitches I had thrown; I was rested up pretty good. I was nervous – I just came out, played baseball and threw strikes.”
Hollingsworth missed out on a huge scoring opportunity when they loaded the bases in the fifth inning with two outs and came up empty. In the sixth, the first two hitters reached and scored before Good retired the final two hitters to earn the win.
The loss went to Christian Pownall, who threw the first 3 1/3 innings – he gave up all six runs. Avery Fields ripped a home run for Hollingsworth and struck out seven hitters as a relief pitcher. Other hits for Holly came from Isaiah Wilson, Simon Aaron, Nathan Gremelspacher and Pownall.
“Christian has been aces all year,” said Holly manager Corey Fields. “Over the course of the season, he threw 33 innings and his ERA was 0.82. He was lights out. (Tonight) he was rattled a little bit. That’s part of it. It’s baseball.”
The win for Expressions was its first in tournament history and sixth for Northwestern. They join William’s Shoes (1999), Thrifty Brake (2005), Graves Sheet Metal (2006) and Cossell’s Landscaping (2007 and 2010). The win for NW also ended a two-year run by Russiaville as champion.
Douglas Hockney, William Gibson and Chris Lowry contributed to this story