Annual home run derby quite a hit

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In Jarrod Kunkle's first at-bat he set the precedent; in his final at-bat he set a record.

Kunkle won the Craig Softball Association's Home Run Derby held Wednesday night at Loudy-Simpson by hitting five home runs in five at bats, the first time the feat has been accomplished in the eight years of the derby.

"I grew up with this kid when he was hitting baseballs and I knew softballs would be the same," said Steve Mallatt, who sponsored Kunkle by paying his $5 entry fee for his last four rounds.

The format was that any player who paid $5 was allowed five swings. A slugger could go for up to five rounds. The point system was 100 points for a home run, hitting the fence in the air earned 25 points and bouncing one over the fence was worth 10.

"This just gives the guys a chance to come out and show off their testosterone," said director of CSA Robert Razzano. "It is always fun for both people to watch and the players who want to muscle up."

About 70 spectators watched Kunkle, a member of the Bower Power team, take the early lead as he hit four home runs in the second overall at-bat.

While waiting for someone to come close to hitting four out of five, Kunkle proclaimed that he didn't have any more money, and that if anybody could hit five the title would be theirs.

At about that time fans who were sitting in a couple of trucks past left field started to taunt Kunkle for wimping out and only going once. That is when Mallat offered his childhood friend the money on terms that if Kunkle won, he would get reimbursed.

The eventual champion sat and waited through 32 rounds until Grady Wilson stepped up and tied him at four long balls.

"Kunkle and Wilson are the two best home run hitters in the league," Razzano said. "So it wasn't a fluke that they won."

After Wilson tied it at four apiece on his fourth at-bat, Kunkle stepped up for his fourth at-bat. Each swing sent the ball flying toward left-center and in his final swing he flung the bat up in the air once he knew it was gone.

Kunkle, who was sporting a small ankle brace, claimed that part of his home run hitting ability came from having the injury.

"I'm so slow right know the only way I can get on base is with a home run since they can throw me out at first from the outfield," Kunkle said.

Wilson had one more attempt to tie the new record but on his fourth swing he hit a line drive and conceded the loss. After nearly two hours, 49 rounds and 90 round-trippers the home run king title went to Kunkle.

"I owe my championship to the fans that bought me swings," he said after receiving the trophy.

Preceding the home run derby, there were three games played in the softball tournament. Big O Tires came to defeat Fenix Iron Works/Cook Chevrolet, 28-24. Holiday Inn continued winning with an 18-11 victory over Martin Construction and Bower Power defeated AmeriGas 20-8.

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