Herald Photo / Dean Hockney
PLAY BALL  — Kokomo Wildkat baseball player DaShaun Barbary makes his way to the base. The team started off strong with three victories right out of the gate.
Herald Photo / Dean Hockney PLAY BALL — Kokomo Wildkat baseball player DaShaun Barbary makes his way to the base. The team started off strong with three victories right out of the gate.
Three times last weekend the Kokomo Wildkats baseball team found themselves in a hole. And three times they found a way to pull off a victory. 

The result of a 3-0 weekend was a perfect start for the Class 4A No. 5 Wildkats and a 12-0 record midway through the campaign.

“To get off to a 12-0 start is really a testament to the kids buying into the team concept and believing in one another,” said Kokomo Head Coach Sean Swan. “You don’t get to those points without a lot of contributions from a lot of guys.”

On April 21, Kokomo found itself down to 3A No. 6 Western (7-2) in the second inning. Kaleb Howard led the inning for the Panthers with a double. Tyler Burthay was hit by a pitch. Reagan Carter laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Pat Mills ripped an RBI single. After a strikeout, number-nine hitter Cooper O’Neal laced a two-run single for a 3-0 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Western gave the Kats a run back. Noah Hurlock was hit by a Brodee Lipinski pitch, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a fielding error. 

Western scored an unearned run off Wildkat starter Bayden Root, thanks to a pair of fielding errors and led 4-1 going to the bottom of the fourth. With freshman Connor Linn taking the hill for the Panthers, Quamielle Belt ripped a one-out single, DaShaun Barbary followed with a single, and junior Nate Hemmerich loaded the bases after getting hit with a pitch. Following a strikeout, Jack Perkins cleared the bases with a triple to tie the game. He scored on a wild pitch to give the Wildkats a 5-4 lead.

Western could not take advantage of two more Kokomo errors in the fifth inning and left the bases stranded. Root then took over and retired the last six Panther hitters in order to secure the 5-4 win in front of the largest regular season high school crowd in Kokomo Municipal Stadium history – estimated at 900 strong. 

The next day, Kokomo swept a doubleheader against Warsaw, 6-2 and 4-3. Hemmerich was the star of the day in both come-from-behind wins. The junior picked up the complete game win in game one (six hits, one earned run, four strikeouts) and had a walk-off single in game two to score Kenny Burton after the backup catcher had doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Hemmerich was 3 for 4 and reached in all four at-bats in game two; he also scored twice in game one. Kyle Wade had a sixth inning two-run double, and Perkins had an RBI double in the nightcap.

“When guys like Burton can come in and produce when they don’t get much playing time is important,” said Swan. “Some of our bench guys were huge last Saturday and again today. Getting contributions from guys across the board will be huge for us down the road. Good teams find ways to win.”

Kyle Wade continues to impress on the hill. In four appearances, he is 3-0 with one save and a perfect ERA of 0.00. He has thrown two complete game shutouts and has given up just nine hits in 17 1/3 innings with two walks and 17 strikeouts. He is batting .324 with 11 RBI’s and scored the game-winning run against Logansport.

The rest of the pitching staff also is having a great start to the season: Root is 3-0 with 22 strikeouts in 15 innings; Perkins is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched; Hemmerich is 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA and a complete game win; freshman Charez Butcher has been clocked by scouts at 93 mph; and Brian Harding is 1-0 with a 1.11 ERA.

Kokomo’s offense also is playing well and is a key part to the team’s success. Through 12 games, the Wildkats have improved its team batting average from .265 last year to .333 this season. A trio of seniors are leading the Kats in hitting: Belt leads the team with a .450 batting average (9 for 20), Perry McCullum is hitting .389 (14 for 36), and DaShaun Barbary is hitting .375 (9 for 24). Junior Colt Munsey is batting .367, Perkins is hitting .351 (team leading four home runs and 20 RBIs), and Harding is at .333.

Kokomo has a busy and challenging week with two games against NCC foe McCutcheon (8-2, 2-2 NCC), the annual Teachers Appreciation Day battle with Northwestern (4-7) at Municipal Stadium on April 28, and a road twin bill at (3A honorable mention) Brebeuf (4-11) on April 29.