BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – For the second consecutive year, Kokomo Municipal Stadium was the home for the annual Kokomo-Western Cancer Awareness Softball Game. And once again, a large crowd shed tears before the game and then watched two teams battle for on-field supremacy.
The night opened with ceremonial first pitches, thrown out by those affected by cancer. Kokomo honored longtime educator Charley Hinkle, who spent 17 days in the intensive care unit while battling prostate cancer earlier this year. Western had Pam Taylor on the field to represent her husband, former Western coach and teacher Mike Taylor. The Panthers also honored breast cancer survivor Jenni Ronk. She opted to allow Western junior Brianna Newby the honor of throwing out her first pitch – Newby recently had a cancerous melanoma removed.
Following the first pitches, Kokomo wasted little time in taking a 2-0 lead en route to a 5-1 victory. In the bottom of the first inning, Oliva Branch singled and scored on an error that allowed Lauryn Hicks to reach first base. Hicks scored on a Karley Trine single. Kokomo made it 3-0 in the fourth; Taylor Simmons tripled and scored on a Sarah Stonebraker double. The Lady Kats put the game out of reach in the fifth courtesy of walks to Branch and Baileigh Keesling-Mayer.
Meanwhile, Hicks was dominating in the circle for Kokomo. After giving up a lead-off single – the runner was caught stealing on a perfect throw from Janessa Reece – Hicks settled in and tossed a seven-hitter with 13 strikeouts. The shutout was broken up by a double off the bat of Emma Key followed by an RBI single from Karlynne Shepherd.
Kokomo finished with eight hits – all coming from different hitters in the lineup. Broklyn Shelton absorbed the loss.
The event raised more than $600 for the American Cancer Society. The game, along with Western’s 1-0 win over Kokomo in baseball as part of the softball-baseball double-header, ended close to the Sports Journal publishing deadline; for more pictures, see the May 7 edition.