Benefield bomb, Sanburn strikeout parade lead Jackrabbits to season, home opening winMay 26, 2016
KOKOMO, IND. – Field manager Matt Howard and first baseman Clay Benefield didn’t panic when the Kokomo Jackrabbits trailed DuPage 3-0 after an inning and a half in their 2016 home opener Thursday, May 26.
“I don’t think there was ever any feeling of pressure from anyone (when we got down early),” Benefield said after the Jackrabbits plated two runs in the fifth and sixth, spotlighted by the Indiana University – Southeast player’s long two-run home run in the sixth that hit the sidewalk on the fly beyond left field in route to a 5-3 Prospects League victory. “We’ve got some guys here who can swing it.”
Howard, whose first full season as the club’s field manager, echoed his first night’s star’s thoughts.
“I just like the energy we have,” he said. “They get here early and work hard … approaching their game the right away - never giving an at-bat or inning away.”
Benefield’s two-run blast wasn’t the only highlight on the Jackrabbits’ heroes list. Shortstop Chris Amato got on base three times and scored twice, while the pitching tandem of starter Parker Sanburn and reliever Austin Weaver didn’t allow a hit after the visitors’ second inning rally until the eighth. Sanburn recorded nine strikeouts in six innings of work.
“I was nervous,” the Kokomo native said of playing in front of many members of his family and other friends. “The last time I started a game was my junior year of high school, and I hadn’t appeared in a game since I pitched against Georgia when I was at Arkansas as a sophomore. I just went out and did what I could hoping it would turn out for the best.”
“I knew early on he had to get through one inning and maybe a few more hitters to settle in,” Howard said of his starter. “He’s got a live arm and, with him being as amped up as he was, sometimes that can lead to getting behind hitters. I knew he’d settle in and come through for us.”
The Jackrabbits continue a grueling early-season stretch of five games in five days Friday, May 27. Game time against DuPage is 7:05 p.m. at Kokomo Municipal Stadium, as the club’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle promotion continues for fans in attendance.
DuPage 030 000 000 3 5 3
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WP – Sanburn
LP – Palasiewicz
S – Weaver
Attendance – 1203