BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – On July 17, the Prospect League brought its annual Home Run Derby to Kokomo Municipal Stadium for a second consecutive year. And once again the ball was flying out the of the stadium that is known to be stingy when it comes to long balls. But while the players were enjoying swinging for the fences, new this year was a Celebrity Home Run Derby – an event that was a huge hit with the fans.
Divided into two teams captained by Jessica Green and Ben Rutz – the morning duo on radio station Z95.5 – 14 locals hit a combined 106 home runs (plus two bonus points) on the temporary 250-foot fence in the Celebrity HR Derby. In the opening round, Kokomo Jackrabbits Business Manager John Perszyk belted 11 home runs in two minutes to take the lead and qualify for the final round of three hitters. KPD Detective Zach Rodman advanced with 10 homers and Kokomo High School softball coach Mike Susong launched nine to capture the final slot.
In the finals, after Susong hit 11, Rodman and Perszyk each hit 12 to send the event into a two-man overtime. Both hit four more on five pitches in overtime before Rodman swatted three to Perszyk’s two in the second overtime to claim the title.
As for the team winners – Team Jess won in a runaway, winning round one 42-20 and the overall title 88-20
Celebrity Home Run Derby results: 1. Rodman (29 overall home runs, including seven over the KMS permanent wall); 2. Perszyk (29); 3. Susong (20); 4. KFD District Fire Chief Ryan Smalley (5), retired MLB pitcher and IU Kokomo assistant baseball coach Joe Thatcher (5), Kokomo Tribune’s George Myers (5); 7. Shannon Anthony of Break Sk8 (4), Jesse Nice of Break Sk8 (4); 9. Sports Journal Photo Editor William Gibson (3), 1070 the Fan Programming Director Greg Rakestraw (3), WLFI Sports Anchor Caleb Noe (3); 12. Green (0), Rutz (0), Terry “Tater” Roach (0).
When the big boys stepped to the plate, Quincy Gem and current Prospect League home run leader (11) Dalton Schumer launched seven home runs in three minutes and 13 in six minutes to take the number one seed into the Final Four. Dougie Parks of the Lafayette Aviators was the second seed after hitting 11 dingers, Danville Dan Mike Rothmund was the third seed with nine and Kokomo Jackrabbit Romero Harris launched eight in six minutes for the fourth seed. The Jackrabbits second entry, Storm Joop, just missed advancing with seven.
In Final Four head-to-head competition, Rothmund eliminated Parks 7-4 in a two-minute round while crowd-favorite Harris lost to Schumer 7-6. The two-minute championship round was just as entertaining as Rothmund hit three home runs to lead off the final round. Schumer then stepped up and hit one homer in the first minute before calling a time out. He tied the game with 20 second to go, and then with just five ticks remaining, Schumer hit a bomb to left field for a HR Derby walk-off winner to the thrill of the large Municipal Stadium crowd.
In all, Schumer hit 24 home runs in four rounds to lead the 10-man field that walloped 95 total home runs. The Gems have now won two consecutive HR Derby titles after Trey Mathis won last season.