[This is my column in the May 29 issue of The Commercial Review.]
It’s easy to let emotions control actions, especially when a season or career is on the line.
Tensions between Jay County and Homestead were high Saturday in the semifinal baseball game at Huntington University.
The Patriots entered with a 10-14 record and had won two of their previous three games. The Spartans were 20-9 and riding an eight-game winning streak
Homestead had everything to lose. It was the defending sectional champion and had received votes in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A preseason poll.
Jay County, on the other hand, was one of two teams in the sectional with a losing record. A win over the Spartans would easily be the highlight of the season.
On paper, Homestead should have run away with the game.
The Patriots saw their lead vanish twice — a two-run lead in the third was erased in the bottom half of the frame, and a 5-2 lead after four innings disappeared in the fifth.
Jay County tied the game again in the sixth inning, only to see its season come to an end in walk-off fashion, an all-too-familiar feeling at Huntington’s Forest Glen Park.
Every base hit, every run and every out was met with cheering from one dugout or the other and their respective fans. Tempers flared as the back-and-forth game carried on into the late innings.
Things even got a little physical between the two teams.
On one occasion, a Homestead player hit Patriot shortstop Kyle Selvey in the ribs while making his way back to second base.
“The kid rounded and came through (and it) looked like he punched Kyle in the ribs,” JCHS coach Lea Selvey said.
Later in the game, there was another physical confrontation, which could have escalated into something more if it hadn’t been for the excellent display of sportsmanship by a Jay County senior.
Trailing by one in the top of the sixth inning, the Patriots were threatening with runners at the corners. As senior Kyle Selvey approached the plate, junior Levi Stant stood on second in scoring position, and Selvey’s classmate, Josh Lykins, was on first.
A breaking ball in the dirt bounced off Homestead catcher Brady Sheehan and rolled behind him. When he got to the ball, Stant and Lykins had already taken off for the next base. Thinking he could have an attempt to get Lykins, Sheehan rifled the ball to second. But his throw was off the mark.
The errant pickoff attempt forced shortstop Tyler Zimske to jump in the air, and as Lykins slid hard into second he took out Zimske’s legs, forcing him to fall to the ground.
“Obviously, that is generally associated with physically trying to take him out,” Lykins said of the assertive slide. “I just wanted to make sure he knew I wasn’t trying to do it on purpose.”
As Zimske threw the ball back to pitcher D.J. Moore and returned to his position to get ready for the next pitch, Lykins extended a hand out to him to make sure everything was all right.
“I gave him the gesture, he gave it right back and said he was good,” Lykins said. “No harm, no foul.”
It was a move many didn’t notice.
Lykins said, though, it was something he felt needed to be done.
“The game was very chippy back and forth,” he said, “and I knew as soon as he came down that if something wasn’t cleared out first, there was going to be a lot of words exchanged.
“I wanted to take the higher ground and extend an apology to let him know.”
In an intense, hard-fought and passionate game, emotions have a tendency to control actions.
What Lykins did speaks volumes for his character.