BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – For years, sports fans in Kokomo have watched and waited for the dynamic pitching duo of Kyle Wade and Jack Perkins to lead the Wildkats to the promised land in baseball. And while that may happen next June, the best friends are putting baseball on hold while leading the Kokomo football squad to the IHSAA Class 5A state championship game.
But in the middle of the Kats run for the gridiron title, Wade and Perkins took time out of their busy schedules to sign on the dotted line to pitch at the NCAA Division I level. Wade signed with the Purdue University baseball squad and Perkins did the same with the University of Louisville.
“Louisville is always where I wanted to be,” said Perkins. “I fell in love with them right off the bat, and it is close to home. They also have great coaches – I will not only be a better ballplayer when I leave, but a better person.”
While Perkins announced two years ago his desire to play at Louisville, Wade did not make a final decision until a couple of weeks ago.
“My recruiting process was very long because I couldn’t decide for a while between football and baseball,” said Wade. “When I visited Purdue, I loved it there; it had a great feel. I could tell (the coaching staff) cared about me; I was not just a recruit.”
Both are known as standout hurlers – Wade is a finesse pitcher who dots the strike zone in the upper 80s while Perkins blows hitters away with a mid-90 mile per hour fast ball. With three Division I pitchers on the staff (Bayden Root has committed to Ohio State University), neither pitcher has found the need to overextend his arm during the high school season:
- Wade has made 24 appearances in three seasons with a 10-8 record and 4.09 ERA. He was 5-1 with one save as a junior (3.76 ERA). He has 75 career strikeouts in 90.2 innings pitched.
- Perkins has thrown in 26 games and has a 6-7 record and a solid 1.84 career ERA. In 99 innings pitched, he has thrown 132 strikeouts.
“Peers respect them,” said head coach Sean Swan. “They are just good baseball players. They understand the game well and have God-given talent; and they use it the right way. They do the little things that sets them above others.”
With the college signing now behind them, the duo – who have led the Kats to a 47-32 record in three seasons, including 21-4 last year – are now ready to take Kokomo to the next level. Specifically, moving further in the state tournament – Kokomo fell in the opening round to Zionsville last year, a team that finished in the Final Four.
“Jack and I have played together for a long time – he is my best friend,” said Wade. “Our seniors have played together, and we know what we need to work on. This season, I think we can do great things if we can come together as a team.”
“I think about that loss to Zionsville,” said Perkins. “It was a big moment for us. We were the favorite to win, and now we have to put it all together as seniors. It is our last chance. We are going to learn from our mistakes.”
These true brothers-in-arms have gained a reputation on the mound as fierce competitors, but off the field, they are down-to-earth teenagers ready to set a positive example. Head coach Sean Swan said Wade and Perkins are quality students who represent the school well.
“They are two of the best you will find. As good of baseball players as they are, they are even better individuals,” said Swan. “You can just see it in the things they do in the community and behind the scenes. The just care about people. They are well liked and go out of their way to do things for people.”
For Wade and Perkins, it has been a four-year high school journey in three sports – football, basketball and baseball. While both have played baseball four years, Perkins dropped basketball early and Wade didn’t play hoops last year. Perkins also took a year off from football to concentrate on baseball – but with his college choice behind him, he was eager to rejoin his best friend and make football a special season.
“Last year, not being out there, was one of the hardest things I had to do,” said Perkins.
“This year, I wanted to be out there in the competitive nature that football brings. It is a family atmosphere, and I wanted to witness it one final time with my best friends.”
While not over, Perkins has enjoyed a great senior season in football. He leads the Kats with 552 rushing yards (34 more than Wade) and has seven rushing touchdowns. He has also caught a team-leading 21 passes for 380 yards and a touchdown in last week’s semi-state game.
For Wade, he continues to rewrite the football record book – with one game remaining in his career, he owns the team career records for passing touchdowns, yards and completions. His 1,583 yards this season is also a new team record. Even more amazing is his toughness – he has started all 47 games for Kokomo in four seasons and has a 35-12 record with three sectional and two regional titles.
But the brothers-in-arms – best friends as they say – still have a long way to go as teammates. First, they will attempt to win a state championship in football this Friday. And then in a few months, they will begin the quest for a state title run in baseball. The dynamic duo could become a state championship duo.