By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — One good pitching turn deserves another.
Russiaville Youth Baseball League squad Salsbery Garden Center hopes for one more tonight.
Elliot Arnold fired a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts to lead Salsbery to a 4-1 upset of league rival Burger King in a David A. Kasey Memorial Tournament semifinal game Wednesday night at Northside’s Carl Hughes Jr. Memorial Field.
Salsbery (15-8) advances to play UCT champion King’s Heating (20-1) in the championship at 7 o’clock tonight at Northwestern.
Earlier in the Kokomo Tribune-sponsored Howard County tournament, Arnold tossed a one-hitter with eight strikeouts in an 11-0, four-inning win over Southside’s Hague Quality Water in the Sweet 16, and Kitchel Gifford pitched a no-hitter with 14 strikeouts in a 2-1 victory over Eastside’s AFSCME in the Elite Eight.
Arnold kept the theme going against Russiaville champion Burger King, which was 3-0 against Salsbery prior to Wednesday’s game. Arnold kept BK’s explosive attack in check. Kevin Lenahan had a single in the first inning, pinch-hitter Spencer Chambers had an infield single in the fifth and Myles Griffith smacked a long home run in the sixth. Otherwise, Arnold was in control.
“Elliot threw an extremely good game,” Salsbery skipper Dan Wright said. “Facing [BK] three times this year, we knew we couldn’t throw a lot of fastballs to those kids. They hit the ball too strong. Thankfully, he had his curveball working [Wednesday]. He had them fooled, other than Myles had it figured out in the sixth inning when he took one to south of Kokomo. Other than that, he pitched great.”
Arnold also came up big at the plate. He hit a solo homer to right-center field in the third inning to put Salsbery up 3-0.
Salsbery finished fourth in the highly competitive RYBL, but has clicked in the tournament thanks to solid pitching and timely hitting.
“When we struggled in the league this year, it was because we didn’t hit the ball,” Wright said. “We’ve had four solid pitchers and our defense has been rock solid. It’s all come down to hitting for us. When you don’t put the ball in play, it’s hard to win games, especially [at Russiaville] because it’s a solid league with a lot of good players.”
Salsbery jumped to an early lead against BK. In the bottom of the first, Alex Kirk smacked a one-out double and took third and home on wild pitches. In the second inning, Alec Pritchett was hit by a pitch with one out, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on a throwing error. And in the third inning, Arnold hit a round-tripper to make it 3-0.
Wright noted the strong start was a key to the win.
“The fact that we got a few runs in the first part of the game was a big deal. The momentum just shot up for these kids because I think we started every game with [BK] all year in a hole. It made a night and day [difference],” he said.
Salsbery’s final run came in the fifth. Gifford reached on a leadoff walk, took second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball, then scored on a fielder’s choice.
BK avoided the shutout in the sixth inning when Griffith hit a deep homer that landed near second base on Northside’s minor league field.
Arnold walked two batters and hit two batters.
Lenahan took the loss. He started and worked four innings. He allowed four runs, three hits and two walks, and hit one batter. He struck out seven.
BK, which was making its second straight Final Four appearance, dropped to 21-3 with Russiaville’s league tournament still to play.