By Pedro Velazco
The Kokomo baseball team’s 8-7 eight-inning victory over Western on Monday night at CFD Investments Stadium had an extra kick. Yes, it’s April. Yes, it’s very early in the season and the game was among teams that aren’t in the same conference or class. Despite all that, the game mattered to both.
“The thing that was good about this game was it really had a tournament atmosphere early on,” Kokomo coach Tim Weeks said. “Both teams wanted it. Both teams played hard. There was still some strategy that went into it with [Western coach] Ty [Calloway] throwing his three studs. They’ve got some hitters, and now I think we’ve proved we’ve got some hitters, too.”
Kokomo won the game in the bottom of the eighth when Cody Shipley singled to center field with runners on second and third. Even had Shipley’s effort been caught, it would have been deep enough to score Dylan Orbaugh from third.
That finished a back-and-forth game that saw each team in position to win.
Orbaugh started the winning rally for the Class 4A No. 6-ranked Kats with a walk to open the bottom of the eighth. He advanced to second when Jesse Broomfield reached on an error, then took third on a passed ball. When Shipley singled him home with one out, Orbaugh was the fourth Kokomo leadoff hitter to score in the game, and it marked the fifth time that a Kat scored after drawing a walk.
“We were [allowing] leadoff guys on,” said Calloway, whose team is No. 1 in 3A. “We’re still struggling with getting ahead in the count. Then if you get a bad call, or I should say questionable call, then you’re not getting your offspeed stuff across and you’re sending too many fastballs. We’ve just got to work on it. It just takes some playing time, simple as that.”
Nick Sale got the win for the Kats. He was originally slated to be the starting pitcher Monday but was feeling under the weather so he was scratched as a hurler and played first base most of the game. He took the mound in the eighth inning and got the Panthers out 1-2-3. He started the frame by striking out Western No. 1 Marcus Pingleton, who had lined out to center, belted a homer and had two other singles before his final at bat.
“Western’s a great fastball hitting team,” Weeks said. “Sale’s an offspeed guy. He kind of showed what he could do that last inning. He wanted to play regardless [of being sick] so we played him in the field. And then he came in in the last inning there and shut them down. I think he only threw 10 pitches, which is pretty effective. Getting the Pingleton kid out, striking him out, was huge, ‘cause he’s a heck of a player.”
Kokomo got an RBI single from Shipley in the bottom of the first inning to plate the game’s opening run. Western responded with an RBI double by Cameron Herr in the top of the second, but Kokomo took advantage of two walks by Western starter Ronnie Smith in the bottom of the frame. With those two runners on, No. 9 hitter Orbaugh blasted a homer to dead left for a 4-1 Kokomo lead.
Western got a tater from Pingleton to start the third. Western put four runs on the board in the fourth inning, scoring first on a two-run single by Pingleton, followed by a two-run blast from Evan Warden for a 6-4 Western advantage.
Kokomo took a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the frame with Drew Guge singling in a run, Orbaugh plating a run on a sacrifice, and Sale singling in a run. Western tied the game in the top of the seventh on an RBI single from Herr.
Warden took the loss for Western, spoiling a strong effort in relief. He threw the final 4 2/3 innings, limiting damage in Kokomo’s three-run fourth inning and keeping the Kats at bay until the eighth.
Kokomo had two spectacular catches in the outfield. Best of the bunch were a full-stretch diving snag by Jesse Broomfield in center field on a third-inning drive that would have scored one run if played conservatively and two if it got through his dive, and a diving catch by Guge in right field in the fifth on a ball that likely would have scored a runner from second.
“I thought the key to the game was the four catches [by Kokomo’s outfield],” Calloway said. “That probably cost us three to four runs. Hat’s off, they made the catches.”