Kenai Central baseball tops Wasilla on walk-off hit

Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kenai Central's Robert Cockrell stepped to the plate with one out, a runner on first base and the score tied in the home half of the final inning.

Cockrell took a wild hack at the first pitch from Wasilla's Brody Coleman and drew air, late on the swing. On the second delivery, Cockrell slapped the ball down the first-base line into foul territory, again late with the bat.

He wasn't late on the third pitch.

Cockrell snuck a sharp grounder inside third base and the ball rolled all the way to the fence in left field, scoring pinch-runner Dante Diaz from first base as the Kardinals defeated Wasilla 7-6 in Northern Lights Conference action Friday at Kenai Little League fields.

On Saturday, the Kards lost 10-8 and 12-2 in a doubleheader against Kodiak. Only the 10-8 loss counted toward the league standings.

"I told him, 'You gotta shorten up. You gotta take the bat from here to here, point A to point B,' and not got through like a roundabout," Kenai Central coach John Kennedy said. "It's not like going around K-Beach to get to Soldotna from Kenai. You have to go straight there."

After Tanner Landry struck out to open the bottom of the seventh, Jonathon Wilson roped a hanging curveball into left field on an 0-2 pitch. Diaz entered the game as a pinch runner.

Cockrell then caught up to an 0-2 fastball and Wasilla's left fielder had trouble corralling the ball as it rolled to the warning track, ending a wild game which featured four lead changes and three ties.

"It felt great -- probably one of my top hits for any game," Cockrell said. "Hopefully this will help us a lot. Hopefully it will push us right through."

The Warriors (2-5 in the NLC) tied the score at 6 with a run in the top of the seventh. David Newman led off with a double to deep right-center field and scored on a Ben Fielder single to left with no outs.

Kenai Central's Miles Jones, who allowed one run in 2 2-3 innings in relief of starter Dylan Sterling, killed the rally with an inning-ending double play. Jones earned the victory after entering in the fifth with the score tied at 5.

The Kards held the biggest lead of the game at 5-2, scoring four runs on two hits in the bottom of the third. The Warriors clawed to within 5-4 in the top of the fourth on a pair of RBI singles, then evened it at 5 in the fifth when Fielder scored from third on a wild pitch.

AJ Hull, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, put the Kards ahead 6-5 with a single to left in the bottom of the sixth before Wasilla pulled even in the seventh.

"For the boys, it's exciting," Kennedy said. "We are getting better, we are starting to make more plays."

Sterling was efficient but not overpowering in 4 2-3 innings. He allowed five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits, three walks and three strikeouts.

Yet he was ahead in the count much of the evening and kept the Kards close before Jones entered in the fifth.

Kennedy praised them both.

"I just can't say enough for the pitching," Kennedy said. "They were outstanding, just an excellent job by them."

On Saturday against Kodiak, Game 1 was back and forth. Kenai Central committed five errors in the first inning in falling behind 4-0, but scored six unanswered over the next three to take the lead.

The Bears went ahead for good with a five-run fourth as Cockrell, who started for the Kards, was pulled after 3 2-3 innings. He allowed one earned run, Kennedy said.

A two-run bottom of the fourth got Kenai Central within 9-8, but the Kards' bats went silent the rest of the way. Hull was 2-for-3 with a double and his third home run of the season, adding three RBIs. Ethan Oliver was 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs.

"That first inning killed us," Kennedy said.

Kennedy played many of his reserves in Game 2, as the 12-2 loss didn't count toward postseason qualification.

Kenai Central opens the NLC tournament Thursday against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

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