Archive for Cal Ripken

KING’S HEATING GRABS FIRST DAVID KASEY MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT TROPHY

Kings - Team Picture

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The number four is the charm for the UCT Cal Ripken Baseball League. For the third consecutive year, four runs from a UCT squad is what it took to win the David A. Kasey Memorial Tournament championship game, sponsored by the Kokomo Tribune. After H.P. McPike won back-to-back titles with scores of 4-3 and 4-2, it was King’s Heating that hoisted this year’s Ralph Stewart Insurance Trophy after stopping Salsbery Garden Center of Russiaville 4-3.

“This is a goal we have had for four years,” said King’s manager Jeremy Moon, who reached the championship game as a player for Eastside’s Amber Electric years ago. “When I came up from the minor’s, I was offered King’s or Scoop’s. They told me I didn’t want King’s because they were kind of cursed, like the (Chicago) Cubs. I took King’s because I wanted my sons together and we were 1-19 that first year. We worked hard to get where we are today.”

King’s Heating and Cooling has been a team sponsor – and general supporter – at UCT for nearly two decades. The King family has coached and donated to the league, and finally can say they are champions of not only UCT but of Howard County.

“This was a long time coming; we are happy,” said Jerry King. “It is about supporting these kids. It means a lot for the kids and the community and we are happy to be a sponsor at UCT. This trophy will be proudly displayed in our showroom.”

In a game in which neither team lead by more than one run and featured three lead changes, it was the lone RBI of the contest that proved the difference. In the top of the fifth, Salsbery scored two runs to take a 3-2 lead. Casey Vail and Kitchel Gifford both singled and scored on a combination of wild pitches and errors. In the bottom of the fifth, Logan Bowser was hit by a pitch and Jaden Armfield reached on a walk for King’s. Two wild pitches later, Bowser scored and Armfield was on third. Elijah Moon then recorded the games only RBI with a sacrifice fly to right to score Armfield for what would become the 4-3, come-from-behind victory.

“This sure didn’t come easy for us,” said Jeremy Moon. “Even our one loss to Eriks Chevrolet was like today in that we had a few errors. We didn’t overcome that loss, but tonight we overcame those errors to win.”

In the back-and-forth affair, Salsbery (15-9) struck first as Gifford walked and scored on a King’s error. King’s tied the game in the bottom of the second after Matthew Arcari walked and scored on a Salsbery error. King’s grabbed its first lead in the second inning as Charez Butcher singled, advanced to second on error and third after a perfect sacrifice bunt off the bat of Cameron Arcari. Nine year-old Cayden Belt – who made a sensational diving catch in left field in the third inning – walked and started to steal second, which drew a throw and allowed Butcher to steal home in a perfectly executed offensive play.

Armfield joins an exclusive club as his father – third base coach Gerald Armfield – was a member of the 1984 championship Rocchio’s team, back when it was called the Kokomo Tribune City Tournament. Both Armfield’s played key roles in their squad’s victory – the elder Armfield recorded the final out of the 1984 game as a 10 year-old and the younger Armfield was the winning pitcher and scored the winning run.

“How great is this?” asked Gerald. “I mean, man, I can’t describe it. There can’t be many father and sons to have won this as players, right? This is a great feeling. I know what Jaden is going through and I really wanted this for him.”

Armfield picked up the win in relief of Moon, who started and gave up one unearned run in his two innings on the hill. Armfield pitched three innings and retired six of the first seven batters he faced. He gave up two unearned runs and struck out five. Bowser closed the door with a 1-2-3 sixth inning to earn the save.

“It was awesome,” said Jaden Armfield. “Logan came in and shut them down and I am pretty proud of him. Logan and Elijah are our 12 year-olds and after we won the league they were pumped. So yeah, I thought we could win.”

“I like the pressure; I was more excited than nervous,” said Logan Bowser of his save.

With both teams relying on pitching, Butcher recorded the only two hits for King’s with a pair of singles. But the champs played effective small ball as they had sacrifice bunts from both Arcari brothers and Drew Bowser.

“That is what baseball is all about – putting the ball in play,” said Jeremy Moon. “You have to make someone do something with the ball, whether it is a bunt or a blooper over second base, just put it in play and make them make a play on you. We will bunt our leadoff if we have to. Some people get prideful and arrogant, but we aren’t like that. We have taught our kids it is about the team and about winning, and everyone has to do their part.

“That is why we pulled my son (Elijah) in the third inning, and he wasn’t happy about it. But I explained to him in the dugout that we didn’t want them to get used to him as a pitcher the second time through the lineup. We want to keep them on their toes. And Jaden came in with that nasty knuckleball, which is hard to hit, so it worked.”

A quirk to the King’s (21-1) lineup is it featured three sets of brothers in its starting lineup – Matthew and Cameron Arcari, Logan and Drew Bowser and Elijah and Ethan Moon. The elder sibling is listed first and batted before his younger brother in the King’s lineup.

With seven starters returning to the lineup next season, King’s Heating has a chance to do what McPike accomplished the two previous seasons – back-to-back Kasey titles.

JACK PERKINS’ NO-HITTER SENDS KOKOMO’S UCT TO THE CAL RIPKEN WORLD SERIES

UCT is the 2012 Cal Ripken Ohio Valley Regional 12-under champions.

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!

SPORTS JOURNAL: 2011 STORIES OF THE YEAR

Kokomo's run to the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game is the top sports story in Central Indiana for 2011. (SJ photo: WILLIAM GIBSON)

#1 KATS RETURN TO STATE PROMINENCE

What a run it was. It started with a 10-game winning streak to begin the season, witnessed a North Central Conference title in the middle, and ended in heartbreak at Conseco Fieldhouse. But any way that you look at it, the Kokomo Wildkats boys basketball team thrilled not only the city, but all of Howard County as they enjoyed a memorable run that culminated with an IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up finish. It marked the fifth bridesmaid honor in the 108-year history of the program but the first trip to the finals since 1997.

Kokomo’s historic run started with easy wins in the Logansport Sectional over Harrison (60-47), Lafayette Jefferson (68-51) and the host Berries (92-57). The Kats then downed Jay County 44-37 in the semi-final game of the Marion Regional, then won a thrilling double-overtime game against Pendleton Heights 58-55 when LaBradford Sebree beat the horn with a 3-pointer from deep in the corner of the Bill Green Athletic Complex. Next up was a trip to the Final Four in the Lafayette Semi-State against No. 1-ranked and undefeated Munster, and it took a last second 3-pointer by D.J. Balentine to send the 10th-ranked Kats to the state finals against No. 4 Bloomington South.

Unfortunately, the run ended as Kokomo was ice cold from the field and South downed the Kats 56-42 on the biggest stage of the high school season. Kokomo’s normally solid shooting squad only hit 1 of 15 from beyond the arc in the heartbreaking loss.

Regardless, the run was a thrill ride for the Wildkat Nation. Thousands of fans followed Kokomo throughout the tournament and it was apparent this group of Red and Blue uniformed Kats won the hearts of a community. Names like Balentine, Swain, Sebree, Persons, Tinder, Moses, Bridgeforth, Salinas, Bowen, Meriwether, Collins, Burnett, Fowler and Clark will be remembered for a long time. No doubt – this was the top sports story in Central Indiana for 2011.

The Kokomo boys basketball team became the darlings of the community as they made a run to the IHSAA Class 4A state finals (see page 9 for the story). After the season, head coach Brian McCauley was named as a coach for the Indiana Junior All-Star team and University of Evansville recruit D.J. Balentine was named a core-five member of the Indiana Junior All-Star team.

#2 BEACHY STRIKES OUT THE SIDE

Northwestern High School graduate Brandon Beachy took the Major League Baseball world by storm this year. After being called up to help the Atlanta Braves close the 2010 season, Beachy headed into the 2011 Spring Training with one goal – make the Braves rotation. He did and became a stalwart in the rotation. By the time he dusted off his Braves uniform for the final time of 2011, he had a record of 7-3 in 25 starts, with an ERA of 3.68 in 141.2 innings.

He also recorded 169 strikeouts to set the Braves franchise rookie strikeout mark, breaking the previous mark of 156 set in 1950. The righties 10.7 strikeout rate was second best in the Major Leagues and fourth best in MLB history for rookie pitchers. That is why he is the Sports Journal co-Athlete of the Year for 2011.

#3 GO SPARTANS!

For the next four-and-a-half years, Howard County will become fans of the Michigan State Spartans as two area players are friends with Sparty. Kokomo graduate Brandon Wood has done what few Wildkat basketball players have done before, break into the starting lineup of a Big Ten school. After being named to the All-Horizon League First Team and graduating from Valparaiso University with eligibility left, Wood chose to play one season for the Spartans and has made an immediate impact – even starting the Carrier Classic game in front of President Barack Obama.

Once Wood graduates this spring, Howard County residents will tune into Spartan football to watch soon-to-be Eastern graduate and three-sport standout Josiah Price play on the gridiron for MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. Price finished his high school football career by leading the Comets to within one win of an improbable Mid-Indiana Conference title. He was named Associated Press Class 2A First Team All-State and the Indiana Football Coaches Association placed him on its Top 50 All-State Team. Maybe a berth on the All-Big Ten Freshman squad is next.

#4 LET’S GO COUGARS!

It sounded ambitious – maybe even unattainable – when it was formally announced in early 2011. IU Kokomo Chancellor Dr. Michael Harris proclaimed that he wanted to start an athletic program and have a women’s volleyball team on the court by the start of the season in the fall. Never mind the fact that there were no coaches, players or facilities.

But when the fall season started, there was Dr. Harris standing in the Northwestern High School bleachers proudly cheering on his IU Kokomo Cougars volleyball team and head coach Kristen Snoddy. At the same time, Jace Thompson was busy signing players and forming a college basketball team – and when they took the court for the first time just two months later – the Cougar men promptly won its first game on the road in Gary against IU Northwest.

So congratulations to Dr. Harris and the new Cougar Nation on setting the bar high and going for broke. We hope the NAIA application is approved and more sports are added in the future. Let’s go Cou-gars (Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap)!

#5 AVERTING CATASTROPHE

On Dec. 3, 14 members of the Kokomo High School girls swim team found themselves on a bus with a driver who would eventually be tested with a blood alcohol concentration of .20-percent. According to the Howard County Sheriff Department, bus driver Theresa Mast was arrested for driving while intoxicated, but thanks to the quick thinking of the head coach and a parent following the bus in a privately owned vehicle, Mast pulled the bus over before anyone was hurt.

According to police reports, a witness said, “it was the scariest thing she ever witnessed.” Mast pled not guilty to the charges and is now awaiting a court date after being charged with three counts, including a D Felony Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Minor. The Kokomo-Center School Corporation terminated Mast.

See the January 3 edition of the Sports Journal for the whole list of top stories. Digital subscriptions are free!