FORT WAYNE – For making its first-ever appearance in a professional stadium, Wawasee sure looked comfortable.
Taking part in the sixth annual Parkview Sports Medicine High School Baseball Series in beautiful Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Wawasee wasn’t in awe of its surroundings. In fact, it may have given Wawasee a little more juice than it planned.
Wawasee answered Whitko’s run in the top of the first with a whopping eight runs to build towards a 10-3 win Tuesday night under the lights in Summit City.
Wawasee, playing in its first High School Series game, saw some sloppy play in the top of the first as there may have been some jitters right out of the gate. Evan Wilson opened the game with a single for the Wildcats and attempted a stolen base with two outs in the inning. An errant throw into center field, followed by another errant throw into the Whitko dugout on the same play, had Wilson give Whitko a 1-0 lead.
“It’s a tough situation and kind of off kilter to come into an atmosphere like this. It’s not normal,” said Wawasee head coach Brent Doty. “I think they had some nerves in the top of the first. We just had to settle down and focus on the moment at hand. We were really sloppy on defense Monday (against Warsaw, making nine errors) and then had two right away, but we didn’t dwell on that and just made better baseball decisions after that first inning.”
Wawasee answered in a big way in the bottom of the frame. Levi Brown started the engine with a two-run double, followed by a bomb by Grant Brooks that landed just a foot from the right field fence for a triple, bringing in Brown. Ethan Garza then stepped up and smashed another ball to the fence in left center for an RBI triple.
Austin Baker, Jacob Carson and Tony Garcia each added RBI pokes to finish out the first inning scoring for Wawasee in a stunning start to the game.
Whitko would settle in just a bit, and even chip away a little. Wilson got away with walking off the bag after Wawasee decided to throw behind him on a pick-off attempt, which cost the Warriors a run when Wilson later scored on a wild pitch. Bryce Rhodes later added an RBI single in the sixth to make it 8-3.
Wawasee, though, tacked on two more runs on back-to-back singles from Austin Baker and Brandon Baker to close out the night’s scoring.
“When I go back to that first inning Wawasee had, two of those fly balls they hit were catchable and we let them fall in,” said Whitko head coach Bob Stambazze, whose club played in its third Parkview Series game. “We’re very young, and this was something we worked on last night. We get up a run, then Wawasee hangs a crooked number on us with that eight. Now we have to battle and want to play more than five. Stay in the game, battle, and play baseball. Unbelievable for us with just two errors after making 31 in the first four games.”
Kam Salazar, making his first start of the season, worked three innings to get his first career win. Salazar allowed five hits and struck out six in his starting pitching debut. Josh Slabaugh scattered four hits, walked two and struck out three in four solid innings of relief.
“With this being Kam’s first outing, I was pretty happy with what he was able to do after getting out of the first,” Doty said. “We want him to be able to refine his pitches a little bit and hit his spots better, but overall, this was a nice way to start out. Josh is just going to come in and pump strikes. If they hit them, they hit them and we have to play defense. That’s his game. He’s going to throw strikes and make you put the ball in play. Those guys did what we needed them to do today, wound up with a ‘W’ today.”
Whitko, which came into the night on a pitching plan because of a short staff in a busy week of baseball, were only planning to have each pitcher throw 30 pitches. Stambazze had Aiden Hoffman start and go 47 pitches, getting shelled for the eight runs on eight hits while shouldering the loss. Wilson, Colton King and Zak Neer went the rest of the way, allowing just five combined hits the final five innings of work.
“I wanted to get Aiden a varsity start to see where he’s at, everybody was going to get 30 pitches but I wanted to see how Aiden handled this,” Stambazze said. “We have a conference game Wednesday, we’re just watching pitch counts after that first inning. But credit to our guys, our dugout was supportive, our kids didn’t quit. Very encouraging to see going forward.”
Wawasee, which has rattled off five straight after losing its season opener, is 5-1 overall with a home game Wednesday against Elkhart Memorial. Whitko, now 1-4 overall, hosts Southwood Wednesday.