Eli Kokenge is the latest in dominant pitchers from Harrisburg

State A Tournament MVP leads to to Region Tournament
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 11:52 PM CDT
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HARRISBURG, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Harrisburg made history over the weekend, capturing their first Legion State Baseball Championship, and showing off their latest in a line of dominant pitchers. Eli Kokenge!

Zach Borg has more on our Karl’s TV & Appliance Athlete of the Week!

STORY

There isn’t a whole lot of stress amongst Harrisburg teammates when Eli Kokenge takes the mound.

“Dominant. He’s very dominant. I think I’m very fortunate to say in the outfield I don’t have to make a lot of plays when he’s pitching. It’s kind of a relaxing game out there!” Harrisburg Outfielder Coen Cook says.

That’s not quite the way Eli felt going into his sophomore year of high school.

“When we first started throwing in the winter, and I started throwing pretty hard, I even surprised myself. This year is kind of the year I kind of took off more and just kind of focused on it a little more and it’s really been fun and paid off a lot. Helped this team out.” Eli says.

Mixing a good slider with a fastball, curve and changeup, Kokenge helped the Tiger high school team reach the state championship game and in the Legion season he was nearly flawless, going 6-0 with 1.27 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 39 innings.

“He’s one of those arms that you can throw out there and trust. I think he’s thrown a complete game almost every single time he’s been out there. It’s just electric to see. Such a young kid too, he’s only a sophomore going to be a junior this year, and his velocity has been up.” Harrisburg Head Coach Jake Adams says.

Eli saved his best for the State A Tournament. When not on the mound he had some timely hits, and when he did toe the rubber there weren’t many to be had against him.

Kokenge struck out 12 in 12 innings of his two victories, the last of which securing Harrisburg’s first ever state legion championship, and earned him MVP honors.

“This season has just been unbelievable and just fun. Hopefully I can just keep progressing and then, eventually, end up where I want to be someday.” Kokenge says.

With his junior year ahead this was the kind of eye opening season that puts him on par with former Harrisburg stars Chase Mason and Will Simmons.

“Will is, you know, pitching at (the University of) North Carolina now and it’s just cool. I can look up to him and see where I want to go someday.” Eli says.

“He’s such a humble kid and he has work ethic. I think he’s going to be a very special player coming through and make a name for himself.” Adams says.

...and ease any tensions Eli had about his ability.

Zach Borg, Dakota News Now Sports.