Jackrabbits PLAYOFF BOUND – claim Battle of 26 Classic title in regular season finaleAugust 6, 2016
KOKOMO, IND. – Field manager Matt Howard was nearly at a loss for words Saturday, August 6.
But for good reason.
At the conclusion of a memorable evening at Kokomo Municipal Stadium that closed the 2016 Prospect League regular season, everything that had to happen for the second-year franchise to be in a celebratory mood as fireworks went off in front of a sellout crowd of 4,000 raucous fans did. The Gold and Brown (16-14 PL second half – 31-29 overall) roared past their league rivals, the Lafayette Aviators 14-1, Butler turned away Champion City’s second half chase for the postseason with a sweep of the Kings at Kelly Automotive Park in Pennsylvania to allow the Jackrabbits to reach the postseason, and the Battle of 26 Classic trophy went to Kokomo with a 5-3 record this season against their guests.
Offense and more offense for the home side dictated the evening. Outfielder Griffin Harms of Wayne State University drilled four hits in five-at bats; fellow outfielder Cole Nieto of Baldwin-Wallace University blasted three extra base hits and drove in three runs; and the final piece of the outfield lineup, Ryan Hutchinson of Illinois State University, turned in three hits, scored three times and drove in two to lead the output. The explosion started with a five-run second and didn’t stop until a single tally crossed in the fifth, six more poured in during the sixth and two more were added in the seventh.
Kokomo’s five-run effort in the second was more than enough for starting pitcher Ryan Lee. The University of Missouri player went eight strong innings with eight strikeouts in route to the win.
“This was just an amazing atmosphere tonight,” Lee said. “That energy the crowd had throughout added in with the opportunity we had in front of us really got me ready to pitch. My fast ball worked from the get go … it was just a pleasure to be able to be a part of it.”
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Howard noted. “They’ve battled all season and tonight was no different. I’m just so thankful for the chance that MKE Sports afforded me to be able to coach here. I’m really excited for not only our guys but also the community and the fact that we could bring them a playoff bid.”
The Jackrabbits open a best-of-three divisional series against first and second half Eastern champion West Virginia Sunday, August 7. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at KMS.
Lafayette 010 000 000 1 4 2
Kokomo 050 016 20x 14 12 1
WP – Lee
LP – Naiser
Coca-Cola Player of the Game – Cole Nieto