By Josh Sigler
If Kokomo’s baseball team is able to go on and claim a North Central Conference championship, it will undoubtedly look back at Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Logansport at CFD Investments Stadium in Highland Park as the spark that ignited and fueled a strong second half to the season.
Drew Sale went the distance on the hill to pick up the win and helped his own cause with a 2-for-4 day and two RBI at the plate, and the defense turned in an error-free performance to help the Wildkats improve to 7-5 on the season and 2-1 in NCC play.
“I thought that was the best all-around game we’ve played all year,” Kokomo coach Tim Weeks said. “We got solid pitching. Drew struggled a little bit early on but battled back and found his groove. We got timely hitting. We played great defense behind Drew. So I’m very, very pleased. Logansport’s a very good team and will win a lot of games in the NCC this year.”
Sale hurled a four-hitter while striking out seven Berries. He walked two and hit another.
Logansport (9-4, 1-2) did its only damage in the first inning. Tommy Corcoran led off the game with a triple to the left-center gap and was driven in two batters later on a Clayton Frye sacrifice fly to deep center. Sale walked a pair in the second but was able to pitch around it after catcher Preston Emmons gunned down a steal attempt at second base. Sale retired eight of the next nine Logan hitters that dug in against him.
“Early on I definitely didn’t have my best stuff,” Sale said. “As the game went on I finally started finding my rhythm. It ended up working out. The guys behind me played really great [Tuesday].”
Emmons’ RBI double in the third knotted the score at 1-1. Two hitters later, Jacob McMain drove in Cody Shipley — who was hit by pitch — to put the Kats up for good at 2-1.
Chase Hatfield, who went 3-for-3 at the dish for Kokomo, added a RBI single through the right side in the fifth to put Kats ahead 3-1.
Logansport missed a prime opportunity to get right back into the ballgame in the sixth. Travis Palmer and Cory Rozzi led off with back-to-back singles, and moved up on Frye’s sac bunt. Luke Vernon reached on a fielder’s choice to third in which Kats’ third baseman Dylan Orbaugh tried to tag Palmer out at the bag before throwing across the diamond only to have Vernon beat the throw.
Sale induced a chopper to third and notched his fifth strikeout of the day to end the threat and stand the bags loaded.
“You have to hit the ball hard in that situation,” Logansport coach Jim Turner said. “We had a lot of strikeouts and pop-ups, and you have to hit the ball hard more frequently than we are in those situations in order to put pressure on the defense. Drew Sale did a really good job of changing speeds. You have to give him credit for pitching a good game. He threw strikes and changed up his pitches. He did a good job of keeping us off our stride.”
Kokomo added three insurance runs in the sixth on Sale’s two-RBI single and Shipley’s sac fly.
Sale then sat Logan down in order to seal the win, picking up his sixth and seventh strikeouts to close the game out.
“We came off a tough loss Saturday, splitting with Richmond,” Sale said. “We wanted to come out and show we could beat a team like [Logansport] and that we’re one of the top teams in the NCC. That’s really important to us.”
Shipley had a double and RBI for the Kats.
Zach Shilts suffered the loss on the hill for the Berries. He allowed four runs on seven hits, a walk and a pair of hit batsmen. He struck out two.
Rozzi finished 2-for-2 at the plate to lead the Berries’ offense. Frye added the squad’s lone RBI and had a pair of sacrifices. Corcoran’s leadoff triple and Palmer’s single were the other hits for Logan.
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