---- — After Western High School won its first state baseball championship a year ago, catcher Kyle Ennis and the rest of the team mobbed relief pitcher Evan Warden.
Jumping into a post-title dog pile was new to Ennis. But it wasn’t for first baseman Jake Florek, winning pitcher Ronnie Smith and Mitchell Shahan, who scored a run during Western’s 8-1 win over Indianapolis Brebeuf in the 2012 championship game.
Florek, Smith and Shahan were a part of the Martin Brothers youth baseball team that won the Kokomo Tribune’s David A. Kasey Memorial Howard County Tournament in 2004.
Memories of that summer still burn brightly.
“The tournament’s the biggest thing ever. It’s what you play your season for,” Florek said of the 2004 Kasey tournament. “We beat four league champions to get there. I remember going to the game. It was totally surrounded by people.”
Kasey championship games still draw a crowd. An estimated 1,500 fans watched King’s Heating defeat Salsbery Garden Center, 4-3, at Northwestern Thursday. The King’s club scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a one-run lead, and pitcher Logan Bowser retired Salsbery’s first three batters in the top of the sixth to end the game.
Perhaps baseball is the county pastime.
We celebrate the achievements of Western’s 2013 squad, which advanced to the semistate before losing to eventual state champion Norwell. We congratulate the players and their coaches. And we acknowledge such success these past two seasons wasn’t an accident.
Over the years, the players have had the encouragement of family members — maybe a mother who drove them to and from practice; a brother who taught them how to pull a fastball and wait on a curve; a father with whom they could play catch.
But they’ve also had the support of the Howard County community. Most of the players grew up here. They played youth baseball here. They had many patient coaches and umpires to help teach them the game.
King’s players Logan Bowser and Elijah Moon, the only 12-year-olds with the 2013 Kasey tournament champions, were 1-19 as 9-year-olds.
Who knows? In another five years, perhaps they will be celebrating a state high school championship of their own.