BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Two consecutive undefeated seasons – complete with UCT league and David A. Kasey Memorial Howard County Youth Baseball Tournament titles – were not enough for Jack Perkins. On July 30, he took his superior play one step further by throwing a no-hitter in the Ohio Valley Regional championship game to send the UCT 12-under all-stars to the Cal Ripken Major/60 World Series in Winchester, Mass. The local squad defeated the Kentucky champions from Scott County 7-0 at Southside’s major league diamond in Highland Park. UCT will play for the 12-under world title in the 46/60 division – which refers to the distance of the pitcher’s mound and base paths, respectively.
“It feels great,” said Perkins, who struck out six in the dominating win. “I worked hard for this; I even practiced with a pitching coach before the game. We worked really hard to get where we are today. It just feels great. To no-hit those guys; they are awesome hitters.”
Scott County manager Kevin Robb told Perkins after the game, “That was absolutely incredible what you did to us. To no-hit our kids who score a ton of runs is incredible. Take that with you to the World Series because you will have fun.”
Robb knows a little about the World Series as his squad tamed the Cal Ripken universe two years ago to capture the 10-under world title. That is what made this win a little sweeter for UCT – that and the fact this same team dominated UCT 17-1 last year in the Ohio Valley Regional.
“Oh, man, what can I say,” said UCT manager Jason Hurlock. “After getting beat by these guys last year, we just kept telling our kids that anything is possible. Just keep fighting – what else can I say. We came to play against a team (averaging 16 runs a game).”
UCT wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. As the visiting team, they grabbed a two-run lead on a Nate Hemmerich rocket that hit the right centerfield fence in the air – tearing down a sponsor banner in the process. The double scored Perkins and Noah Hurlock and was all the offense Perkins needed on the 85-degree Monday evening. The righty struck out the first two Scott County hitters, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
“He has nerves of steel,” said assistant coach Scott Perkins, the father of the winning pitcher. “He can accomplish anything and he wants to win so badly. Sometimes that overrides the talent, but he was on tonight. To no-hit this Scott County team is unbelievable. No one does that.”
In the second inning, Perkins walked Cameron Stiglich with one out, but Ryan Hannabach hit a one-hopper to Noah Hurlock at short, who stepped on second for one out and fired to first for the inning-ending double play. It was one of two DP’s UCT would register in the six-inning game.
“I think our defense was better than the no-hitter,” said Perkins. “They were awesome tonight.”
UCT put an insurance run on the board in the fourth inning as Hemmerich singled and scored on an RBI single up the middle by No. 9 hitter Luke Cameron. UCT then put the game away in the fifth. Brian Harding led off the inning with a deep home run to left center field. Perkins reached on a fielder’s choice and Hemmerich reached on a throwing error. That set up Breven Sanford, and he delivered the knockout punch with a high, long home run to left field to give Perkins and UCT a 7-0 lead – to which Perkins slammed the coffin shut by completing his no-no.
“We told our kids before the game that if we get up, they will come back at us,” said Coach Perkins. “They can score in waves. We expected that to come. So we didn’t expect this outcome – a no-hitter. It was an amazing team effort. Wow!”
After pool play, UCT entered the single-elimination portion of the OVR as the No. 5 seed. They downed No. 12 Southside, No. 4 Henderson, Ky. (13-0), and No. 1 Russiaville (11-1) to advance to the championship game. Scott County downed No. 7 Escanaba, Mich. (13-3) and No. 6 Green Bay, Wis. (6-3) to reach the finals.
UCT is the second Kokomo squad to win a Cal Ripken Ohio Valley Regional. In 1995, Southside won the Bambino OVR (Bambino was renamed Cal Ripken in 2000) and finished as the World Series runners-up. Now it is UCT’s turn to travel to Massachusetts and show the world what Kokomo baseball is about.
The World Series runs from Aug. 9-16 with opening ceremonies for the 10-team field scheduled for Aug. 8 at Robert J. Nutile Field. UCT is schedule to play its first pool play game against the New England champion on Aug. 9 at 5:30 p.m. The top three teams in each division advance to the single elimination finals.
If Jack Perkins, Nate Hemmerich and the rest of the UCT stars play offense and defense like they did at Southside, look for them to be one of those top three teams advancing out of the American Division of the Cal Ripken World Series. Enjoy the ride!