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KOKOMO—Perhaps it was just a foretelling of things to come in the class 3A baseball semi-state game won 11-6 by Western High School over Bellmont at Highland Park Saturday when the start of the game was delayed for several minutes.
The delay? Despite the drought-stricken spring, it seemed the pitcher's mound and batter's circle at the field were tended to before the game by an overzealous groundskeeper making conditions less than desirable for play. That forced Highland Park officials to rake in over six large bags of drying agent on the dirt to make it playable.
Despite the pre-game maladies, it was still Bellmont's game to win as they took a narrow 5-4 lead into the top of the seventh on the strength of a long, two-run homer to left centerfield by Brian Hakes in the bottom of the sixth. All the wheels on the Bellmont bus then went flat in the top of the final inning as Western sent 11 batters to the plate to produce five hits, got two walks and a hit batter enroute to scoring six runs.
With the wind suddenly taken out of their sail, Bellmont managed just a leadoff walk to Ben Baker in the bottom of the frame before they made outs in the next three positions thus advancing the Panthers to the class 3A state finals game next Saturday at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
"We had plenty of opportunities to score runs in this game, plenty," emphasized Bellmont coach Ben Fawbush, adding "they finished with 11 and we should have had 11 or 12."
Unfortunately for the Braves, they stranded nine runners on base, six of whom were in scoring position (second or third) when the third out of the inning occurred. That and the fact that none of the Bellmont hurlers were particularly effective as they allowed 13 Western hits, including a triple and five doubles, six walks and hit one batter.
"It seemed like we left about a 100 runners on base today and our pitching was not like it has been in the past couple of weeks. Of all days to let down, this wasn't the day. We knew coming in that Western was a good team and that they'd be up there swinging hard," Fawbush noted.
BHS starter Phillip Bauman threw 47 pitches in the first two innings as he faced five batters in each inning and while he would get an 0-2 or 1-2 count on numerous occasions, Western fouled off many pitches and waited patiently for a good pitch to hit.
In the top of the first, Adam Bolen drilled a long fly ball over Gunnar Cale's head in center field and ended up on third with a triple. Dakota LaMott fell behind 0-2 but then got to a 3-2 count and after fouling off a pitch ripped a single for a 1-0 lead.