EXPRESSIONS (NW) PULLS AN UPSET TO WIN DAVID KASEY MEMORIAL HOWARD COUNTY YOUTH BASEBALL TOURNAMENT TITLE

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

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PARKING ISSUES STARTING TO PLAGUE LARGE EVENTS AT KOKOMO MUNICIPAL STADIUM

DEAN’S LIST WITH PUBLISHER DEAN HOCKNEY

We are now in year three of the city taking a calculated chance with building Kokomo Municipal Stadium; and three years later, the raves continue to roll in. In fact, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development stated that KMS was one of the top seven baseball stadiums in the state (see page 3) and they encouraged fans of the national pastime to catch a game in the City of Firsts.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association loves hosting tournament games in the stadium, and during the semi-state, compliment after compliment was made about the facility. I wouldn’t be surprised that even after Lafayette replaces Loeb Stadium that Kokomo keeps the annual North Final Four games.

The Kokomo Jackrabbits are as popular as ever. Through the first 10 games of the 2017 season, they have already brought in more than 14,000 fans and are ranked second in average attendance at 1,409 per game (Chillicothe is first with an average of 1,771).

But with the stadium becoming more popular with fans, an issue has popped up – parking. The lot at the stadium has always been small, and city officials said on-street parking was the first option for visitors. Kokomo Schools allows stadium patrons the use of the Memorial Gymnasium and Central Middle Schools lots on most days. Plus, the city has a garage downtown, and with the absence of the old funeral home lot being available due to construction, city officials readied a new temporary lot adjacent to the stadium.

Even with those options, two new problems have cropped up around the stadium. One is residents utilizing trash containers to apparently reserve parking spots on local streets. I know the police department has already looked into that complaint.

The second issue is visitors are starting to park on the grass near the walking trail to the Northwest of Municipal Stadium – and our city leaders have said that is a big no-no. In fact, during the IHSAA Semi-State, the Kokomo Police Department and Howard County Emergency Management Agency responded with multiple patrol vehicles – all with red and blue lights flashing – and tow trucks were on the way. The issue that day was cars were DRIVING on the walking trail and then parking on the grass adjacent to the trail. Nearly all of these were out-of-town visitors who had probably never been to the stadium – but then again, who thinks it is okay to drive on a paved walking trail?

Last Sunday at the Jackrabbits game, the grassy area was again used as a parking lot and KPD dispatched officers to have the vehicles moved. The moral of the story is if you are visiting Municipal Stadium this summer, be warned: Park in designated areas or your vehicle may be impounded. The city should put a sign or two in the area, but at the same time, common sense should also be used.

Update: Vehicles have now been found parking in construction zone on Union Street near the stadium and on the privately owned Rabbits Hole on Union Street adjacent to the stadium.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, Hit Country WWKI contributor and the public address voice for IU Kokomo and the Kokomo Jackrabbits. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and in-game reports.

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DEXTER TWO AND DONE AS KOKOMO LADY WILDKATS HEAD COACH, HIRED AS ATHLETIC DIRECTOR AT WESTERN BOONE

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kokomo High School girls basketball program is shopping for a new coach for the third time in four seasons. On June 12, Jeremy Dexter was hired as the new athletic director at Western Boone High School near Thorntown.

Dexter took over as varsity head coach of the Lady Wildkats at the start of the 2015-2016 season, and in two campaigns, had a record of 29-17. Last season, Kokomo was 15-8 and placed fifth (6-3) in the North Central Conference; he led the Lady Kats to the West Division title (4-0) in his first season. Dexter was 0-2 in sectional competition, losing both years to Zionsville.

Kokomo Athletic Director Jason Snyder said the outgoing coach leaves the Lady Wildkats on good terms.

“Coach Dexter came in and had a successful couple of seasons here,” said Snyder. “He worked with our kids at all levels. I wish him the best.”

Dexter took over the program after Heather Mygrant (13-10) stepped down after one season due to a family illness. Previously, Snyder (101-68) led the Lady Kats for eight years. The once dominate program is 2-9 since last winning a sectional in 2008.

Dexter coached the Eastern Lady Comets from 2008-2013, leading the squad to a Class 2A state runners-up finish in 2013. His overall coaching record is 104-52. Prior to arriving at Kokomo, he spent two years as the athletic director at Churubusco High School.

At the time of his hiring, Dexter said in a statement: “Kokomo is an unparalleled job in the state of Indiana.” In 42 years of basketball, the Lady Kats are 649-279 (.699) with three IHSAA state championships.

Kokomo Athletic Director Jason Snyder said the girls program will continue its summer workout regimen even without a head coach; he also targeted a hire date for a new coach.

“We already have summer plans set for the team, so we will continue to have workouts,” said Snyder. “We are looking at having someone in place for the July 17 school board meeting. We look forward to a smooth transition and having a great season next year.”

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