MERRELL BROTHERS OF NORTHWESTERN WINS DAVID KASEY MEMORIAL HOWARD COUNTY YOUTH BASEBALL TOURNAMENT

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The dominance of the Northwestern Youth Baseball League in the annual county baseball tournament continued after Merrell Brothers stopped Neher Insurance of Southside 11-1 in four innings in the championship game. Played at Robert M. Waddell Memorial Field in Russiaville, Merrell Brothers won its first David A. Kasey Memorial Howard County Baseball Tournament and the third in a row for Northwestern.

Merrell Brothers joined Kokomo Grain and Expressions as recent Kasey Tourney champs from Northwestern – the title was the eighth overall for the league, which is now the most for any county league (Russiaville has seven). Merrell also won the Northwestern regular season and tournament championships.

In the 63rd annual title game, sponsored by the Kokomo Tribune, Merrell Brothers jumped to a quick 2-0 lead and never trailed. Both first inning runs came without the assistance of a base hit – Brock Shank opened the game by receiving a base on balls, went to second on a throwing error, stole third and scored on a wild pitch. Then No. 3 hitter Hayden Cook walked, stole second and third before scoring on a second Neher error.

Neher Insurance (16-10) made the game a contest with its only run coming in the bottom of the first. Caleb Taflinger led off the inning with a single, No. 2 hitter Micah Taflinger walked and clean-up hitter K.J. Lorenz singled to score Caleb.

But Merrell was too strong – they answered with two runs in the second inning, one in the third and six in the fourth. Meanwhile, 10-year-old Jaxson Trueblood was sensational on the hill for Merrell Brothers. After getting out of the first inning jam, he pitched the next two to earn the win. Teegan Helmle closed the game by striking out Neher in order in the fourth.

The road to the championship was not easy for Merrell Brothers (21-2) as they had to go through a pair of league champions. In the opening round of the tourney, they met Russiaville champion Lions Club and earned a 5-2 win. They knocked off King’s Heating and Plumbing (UCT) 11-1 in the second round and Expressions of Northwestern 9-1 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Merrell defeated Southside’s undefeated champ Quality Plumbing and Heating 2-0.

Neher advanced to the finals with wins over Eriks Chevrolet (UCT) 11-1, Martin Brothers (RUS) 4-3, AFSCME (ES) 6-1 and Coke (UCT) 10-0. The tourney was plagued with bad weather, which forced the championship to be played on Saturday, which was two days behind schedule.

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KOKOMO JACKRABBITS REDUCE TICKET PRICES AS ATTENDANCE PLUMMETS

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kokomo Jackrabbits announced that they have reduced ticket prices for the remainder of the 2019 season. The announcement comes as attendance has plummeted by nearly 50-percent in the first 10 home games of the 2019 season (7,093 this year compared to 14,115 last year).

The Jackrabbits announced three new ticket price tiers: Backyard will be $6 (lawn seating in the outfield), Dugout is now $8 (Sections 101-103 and Sections 107-109) and Scout has been reduced to $12 (behind home plate Sections 104-106).

According to a Jackrabbits press release, these are the lowest ticket prices since the team’s inception in 2015. The price drop will allow a family of four to experience a night at Kokomo Municipal Stadium for as little as $24. Current 2019 ticket holders will receive “Jax Cash” food vouchers to compensate for the price adjustment.

“We’ve listened to our season ticket holders and are always looking to improve the overall fan experience at Kokomo Municipal Stadium,” said Jackrabbits General Manager John Perszyk. “With that being said, we are lowering our ticket prices so that everyone can enjoy an entertaining baseball game while trying our new value baskets.”

Attendance in 2019 has taken a sharp nose-dive from previous seasons. In the first 10 games this year, the Jackrabbits were averaging 709 fans. Last year during the same time period, the Rabbits drew 1,412 per game, which was a four-year high. Three times this season, the all-time low attendance mark has been set, including the new low of 419 in a game last week.

Last Sunday on Father’s Day, attendance improved to 992 fans, but that paled in comparison to previous Father’s Day crowds at Municipal Stadium (1,474 in 2017 and 1,560 in 2015). In the first 11 home games this season, Kokomo has only drawn more than 1,000 fans once (1,351 for game two), which is already more triple-digit crowds than any other season (nine in 2015, one in 2016, one in 2017 and six last year).

In addition to lowering ticket prices, on-field entertainment and theme nights have continued to expand for the remainder of the season. The entertainment schedule includes three bobble head, six Firework Nights and three jersey auctions. The Jackrabbits will also have theme nights to include Apperson Jackrabbit, Star Wars, 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing and the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.

Seven-game and half-season ticket packages are available at the Municipal Stadium ticket office and at www.kokomojackrabbits.com.

Courtesy of the Sports Journal staff and the Kokomo Jackrabbits

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KOKOMO JACKRABBITS LEAP TO FIRST PLACE IN NORTHWOODS LEAGUE GREAT LAKES EAST DIVISION

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – After starting the season 0-3 in its new Northwoods League home, the Kokomo Jackrabbits (7-6) have caught fire and are tied for the lead in the Great Lakes East Division after two weeks of the 72-game season. The rabbits are currently the second-hottest team in the league, having won seven of its last 10 games. The Great Lakes West Division leading Madison Mallards (11-2) have won eight of its last 10 and the Mankato MoonDogs (7-6) sit in third-place in the Great Plains West Division after taking wins in seven of its last 10.

During Kokomo’s current run, they recorded three consecutive wins from June 3-5 against Rockford (6-5) and Battle Creek (7-6 and 2-1). They ended the week with a 7-4 victory on the road at Rockford. Of Kokomo’s seven wins, seven different pitchers have been the pitcher of record.

A huge highlight for the Jackrabbits has been the debut of former Kokomo Wildkat and current Ohio State right-handed pitcher Bayden Root. He made his first appearance against Kenosha on June 5, striking out four of the five batters he faced. On June 7 at Battle Creek, he faced 11 batters over three innings as the starter, giving up one hit and striking out four. He came on in relief on June 9 at Rockford and pitched a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts.

But while the Jackrabbits are thriving on the field, fans have are not returning to the stands as they have in years past. After six home contests, Kokomo is ranked 21st in attendance at 762 fans per game. Last season after six games, Kokomo averaged 1,237 spectators – meaning the Rabbits are averaging 475 fans fewer per game this year. Madison leads the 22-team Northwoods League at 6,089 per contest, the Duluth Huskies are last at 719, and the league average is 1,594.

Kokomo is back in action at Municipal Stadium for a four-game series starting on June 11 when the Traverse City Pit Spitters visits for the first time. The June 11 game begins at 7:05 p.m. and the two squads play two games on June 12, 1:05 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. before wrapping the series on June 13 at 7:05 p.m.

 

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