SOUTH WHITLEY — Pick your cliché saying to describe Whitko’s walk-off win Tuesday night
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” would work just fine.
“All is well that ends well,” is also applicable for the Wildcat faithful.
Whitko picked up its third win of the season in dramatic fashion after Hunter Sroufe hit a walk-off single to defeat visiting Wawasee 4-3.
Sroufe was given the chance to be a hero in the bottom of the seventh after his team had trailed the entire game. The Wildcats entered the game’s final frame trailing 3-1. Tanner Gaff managed to tie the game 3-3 with a double to left field scoring Alex Bechtold and Robby Owsley. Drew Bradford was intentionally walked, bringing Sroufe to the plate.
The senior did not cave under the pressure, but was rather calm in the spotlight. That was until he slapped the game-winner into right field.
Landen Goff sprinted home as the Wildcats dugout emptied unto the field. Sroufe touched first then ran back to be mobbed by his teammates. The senior tossed his helmet in the air, stuck his tongue out and had a noticeable strut as he made his way back to his frenzied teammates.
“Sroufe had good at-bats all day,” said Whitko head coach Erik Hisner. “I knew he was due for one so it was nice to see him put one out where they weren’t standing.
“We had a couple of guys step up for us at the bottom of the order in the seventh. Bechtold drew the walk, (Garrett) Cokl came off the bench, stayed in on a breaking ball and wears it. Those guys got us going and then we had some luck go our way with a little bloop shot by Goff to set Tanner up for his big hit.”
Sroufe was just 1-4 on the day but that one hit was obviously the hit. Whitko had eight hits as a team but was held at bay for the first six and one-third innings by a scrappy Wawasee squad. The young Warriors played a great game defensively and did most of the little things right up until the very end, but that’s when it mattered most.
“Give Wawasee a lot of credit, they came out and jumped on us,” Hisner said of the visiting squad. “I really liked that sophomore pitcher. He did a good job for them, he competed. They outplayed us for six and a third innings.”
Jacob Garcia was the underclassman pitcher that gave the Wildcats fits for most of the day. He had not given up an earned run before the bottom of the seventh but that’s where the youth of the Warriors truly was tested against the experience of the Wildcats. Garcia finished his day giving up eight hits, three earned runs and recorded five strikeouts.
“It was a phenomenal job by Garcia tonight,” began Wawasee head coach Brent Doty. “But, you know, we kind of expected that out of him. He’s going to fit in very nicely for us in the pitching rotation. He came out and did exactly what we wanted him to do. He got ahead in counts a lot and got the big strike out to start the seventh, we just needed to put them away at that point and didn’t get it done.”
As good as Garcia was, Gaff was doing just as well on the mound for the Wildcats. After seeing two unearned runs cross home early for Wawasee, Gaff settled in and shut down the Warriors, holding them to just four hits.
“We let Gaff get into too much a rhythm on the mound,” Doty offered of the opposing pitcher. “He’s a good pitcher, very solid. Probably one of the best we’re going to see all year. You just can’t let him get to where he was tonight.”
Gaff pitched all seven for the ‘Cats, gave up zero earned runs and fanned nine Warrior batters.
Wawasee scored on RBIs from Chase Rookstool and Garcia in the first inning while Rieder Hunley scored in the second on a throwing error. Whitko scored its first run on an RBI from Gaff. Gaff finished the day with a game-high three RBIs.
Whitko (3-0) will travel to Goshen Wednesday night while Wawasee (2-2-1) will travel to Columbia City on Thursday.
Whitko’s JV team fell 6-5 to Huntington North.