The Street Kids/Wildman/KoteIt softball team came to Topeka, Indiana on July 3-4 for the 40th annual July 4th Festival, an event they won in 2011. Last year, the SKS team was in the middle of a mid season slump and did not fair too well. This year, they hoped to get back in the win column after losing to 22 Below last weekend in the championship if the Directors Cup in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
SKS opened against Strays and won this one pretty quick, 16-5. The next game was against a good RC Recycling team and this game would be close but in the end, SKS would hold off RC and win 20-19.
The 2-0 SKS team was not set up to face the 3-0 Region Softball team. Not quite sure what happened here, but the bats of SKS went dead quiet. Region played well enough to win, and thats the whole point of winning, but SKS did not give them a match at all, losing 16-8. The loss dropped them into the losers bracket against Celebrity Motors out of Ohio. Despite a few hard shots up the middle, Celebrity had no answer for Topeka's own celebrity Faron Miller on the mound as Miller held them scoreless as SKS won 15-0 in four innings.
The next game was against a very good Synergy team. Street Kids started out the same way they played against Region, flat and lifeless for the first four innings. Synergy took advantage and after four and half innings, they led SKS 16-8. Then it happened. Maybe it was the thought of losing early in Topeka for the second straight season, or maybe it was the excitement of playing in front of hundreds of people on this holiday afternoon, but a spark was lit in the SKS dugout and the bats came alive. SKS scored 17 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 24-16 lead. It was the first real sign of the chemistry that SKS was missing for a while, as with every hit to the gap, every ground ball through the hole and every home run that flew into the carnival area on field one was followed with a resounding yell from the team. The Kids would go on to win this game, 24-19 and advance to the next round of the losers bracket.
"That was something to see for sure," said coach Matt Sheehan after the game. "That is exactly what we needed to make our way back to the finals."
With the win, SKS was now in the losers bracket finals against the team that put them there, Region. This time, it was Region who looked flat and SKS who remained hot as Street Kids rolled to a 15-5 win, advancing to the finals of the July 4th Festival tourney for the second time in three years.
Cedar Creek was undefeated and playing very well the whole tourney and in the top of the first inning, they continued their torrid hitting, putting up 14 runs before SKS even had a chance to bat. But Street Kids have been down before and would not give up. They answered back with six runs in the first inning, three more in the second and third inning, and after three complete innings, Cedar led 18-12. This was the normal time that the tourney takes a 20-30 minute break for the amazing Firework display, where a few thousand people would watch another great show in the sky. After the break, Cedar scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning and SKS answered back with four in the bottom of the fourth. Cedar would actually go scoreless for the final three innings of this game, but it was up to SKS to take control and force the "if" game in this championship.
SKS scored two in the fifth, went scoreless in the sixth and heading into the bottom of the seventh, SKS needed three runs to tie and four to win. John Krider led off with a single and Todd Mase followed with a single. Jeremy Hochstetler then singled in Krider to cut the lead to 21-19 with no one out. Joe Horvath then reach on a fields choice and advanced to second base on Leland Schmuckers rbi single to right. With the game tying run at second in Horvath, and the potential winning run at first base in Schmucker, Jay Jeffery stepped to the plate with only one out and already four hits undder his belt in this game. A gap shot would tie the game and could possibly even win it. But that would not be the case. Jeffery swung and hit a rocket toward the second baseman who caught it on a line drive and quickly flipped it to first base and doubled off an agressive Leland Schmucker to end the game and the tournament. Cedar Creek won it, 21-20.
"On one side, you always watch the line drive through," said TJ Jorgensen of SKS. "But on the other hand, I know Leland really wanted to get that extra jump, especially with the ASA stealing rule on that gave him an extra half second. No one is upset for Leland being agressive there, and nine times out of 10, that works to our advantage."
Leland Schmucker and Todd Mase both had five hits for SKS in that game. Leland, Jeremy Hochstetler, Tim Austin and Jay Jeffery were all named to the all-tourney team as SKS finished second for the second straight tournament. On the bright side, it was the seventh straight tournament that the team has reached the championship game.
Up next for SKS will be the XKE tournament in Fort Wayne next weekend, which is part of the Worth Power Series. The tourney begins Friday night, July 12th. Following the XKE, SKS will travel to Kokomo, looking for their third straight ASA "B" state title.