PENDLETON -- The Kokomo Wildkats made it difficult on themselves in a rainy game one of the Pendleton Regional at Pendleton Heights' Field of Dreams. From what was a 5-1 lead over the Homestead Spartans going into the top of the seventh, turned into what seemed to become a Wildkat meltdown, but they survived to get a 5-4 win and advanced to the regional championship at 8 p.m.
The Kats uncharacteristically had seven errors in the win.
The errors did not begin to haunt Kokomo until the seventh inning as Homestead was only able to score only on the first error in the third inning. In the seventh, however, Kokomo got careless as pitcher Nolan Sanburn attempted to pick off Homestead's Ryan Hosler at second base and the throw went passed Drew Sawyer to centerfielder Casey Shipley who then overthrew third baseman Devin Schacht and Hosler scored as the ball went into the Kokomo dugout. Two batters later, Brandon Soat made the game interesting with a home run passed the center field fence to bring the score to 5-3.
Later in the inning, shortstop T.J. Weir dropped a routine fly ball. But even with all of that adversity, Sanburn was able to get the last two outs of the game by striking out the next two batters to get the win.
The game ended right on time. Right after the final pitch, from what was a rain shower throughout the game, turned into a downpour with lightning in the immediate area.
Kokomo did have some bright spots in the game. First they got the win, and second, starting pitcher Nolan Sanburn pitched a complete game and struck out 13 Spartans.
Kokomo coach Steve Edwards was happy just to get the win to advance.
"I told the kids before we even started the tournament, there is always going to be that one game as you go through the tournament that you are going to be challenged by adversity and for us to make the amount of mistakes as we made today and still win that game shows you that we can fight through adversity," he said. "That was a tough, tight last inning but Nolan did a great job getting himself out of there. That's why we kept him in there. He's a prime-time pitcher."
Offensively, Kokomo went up early on Homestead leading 3-0 after two innings. Early in the game, it was Homestead that was struggling from the mound. Homestead starting pitcher Cody O'Neal threw five passed balls in the first two innings, which allowed the Kokomo base runners to advance. Casey Shipley scored on one passed ball in the first inning and Dylan Green hit a deep two-run homerun passed the left field fence in the second inning scoring Devin Schacht, who previously doubled.
In the fifth inning, Weir's single brought home Sawyer and Schacht was walked with the bases loaded to bring home Phillip Kuhns from third. Homestead survived what could have been a big inning by leaving the bases loaded.
"That two-run home run (in the second inning) was huge for momentum," Edwards said. "Then we flattened out in the middle innings. Then we got that run. We should have probably scored a couple more, but we left the bases loaded (in the fifth) inning."
Edwards said that back in 2007, his state runner-up team faced similar adversity along the way to Victory Field and that made the team tougher in the tournament.
"It's win and advance, we talk about that all the time," he said. "I don't care how we get the wins as long as we win and advance. That's the key in the tournament. As soon as you lose, you are done for the season."
The winning pitcher for Kokomo was Sanburn. He pitched a complete game and allowed four runs, struck-out 13 and allowed no walks. The losing pitcher was Homestead's Cody O'Neal. He pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed five runs, struck out two and walked six, two were hit by the pitch. Eric Cartman relieved him in the fifth inning and struck out four.
Kokomo advances to play the winner of Carroll (Fort Wayne) and Connersville at 8 p.m., weather permitting.
Check back later this evening for the recap of the Pendleton Heights regional championship game.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Homestead 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 4 6 1
Kokomo 1 2 0 0 2 0 X 5 4 7
7. Jake Renkenberger 1/4 (2B, K)
4. Jordan Kinzer 0/4 (2K)
21. Steve Louden 0/4 (3K)
20. Cody O'Neal 0/4 (4K)
13. Jake Weber [DH for Andre Jernigan] 1/3 (K)
6. Ryan Hosler 1/3 (2B, R)
3. John Killham 1/3 (K, throwing error)
5. Brandon Soat 2/3 (HR)
15. Anthony Mullen 1/3 (RBI, R)
5. Casey Shipley 1/3 (BB, K, throwing error)
3. Phillip Kuhns 0/3 (HBP, R, K, throwing error)
6. T.J. Weir 1/2 (RBI, BB, 2 throwing errors)
25. Nolan Sanburn 0/1 (2BB, throwing error)
17. Michael Reynolds 0/3 (2K)
22. Devin Schacht 1/2 (RBI, 2B, BB)
19. Dylan Green 1/3 (HR, 2RBI, K)
24. Nick Franklin 0/2 (HBP, K)
1. Drew Sawyer 1/3 (2B, R, 2 throwing errors)