MARIANNA, Fla. — The national championship game rematch just four games into the season lived up to the hype Friday afternoon, as top-ranked Chipola and second-ranked Walters State battled in a pitcher's duel, with the two-time defending champion Indians coming out on top, 2-1.
The Indians (2-1) plated a pair of runs, just one earned, in the opening frame and made the early lead stand up, as they fended off several rallies from the Senators, stranding seven Walters State base runners while only giving up a pair of hits in the win.
Walters State pitcher Alex Haynes (1-1) went the distance in the contest and was a tough luck loser after allowing just the two runs, one earned, on four hits while striking out three and walking just one. Chipola scored two runs in the first and left two more runners on, and after a base hit and a stranded runner in the second frame, the Indians had just two base runners in the final four innings, one on a base hit (who was erased by a double play) and one on an error (who was later caught stealing to end the inning).
Indians' starter Andrew Moore grabbed the win after giving up an earned run on two hits in three innings of work. Reliever Jake Smith walked two and struck out four in three hitless innings of relief before Michael Cullen recorded a fly out and Jared Howell entered to get the final two outs of the game for his first save of the year.
The Indians responded to a perfect top half of the first by Moore by plating the only two runs they would need in the win in the bottom of the frame. Anderson and Rosier both singled before Johnson reached on a one-out error to load the bases. Howell walked in a run before Cameron Gray lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Rosier and making it 2-0.
Bibb singled in the second but was stranded to keep the Senators scoreless, but Bland roped a double to lead off the third and put the visitors in business. Xavier Arnette grounded out to move Bland up 90 feet, and Bland scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-1. Jerry Hammons, the reigning NJCAA National Player of the Week, walked with two outs and reached second on the wild pitch before Mason Streater walked, but Brayden Combs struck out to end the threat.
The Senators got runners on the corners with two outs in the fourth, but Michael Robinson grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning. WSCC rallied once again in the sixth, as Braydon Runion was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to second when Drew Haynie walked with two outs. The threat ended with a fly ball by Bland for the third out.
The Senators began a second game on Friday against Florida Southwestern State, but the contest was not completed due to rain. The two teams were scheduled to continue that game Saturday afternoon, picking up in the sixth inning with WSCC trailing 9-6, but rain again forced the game to be postponed and the Buccaneers claimed the win.
Haynie and Combs both had two hits for the Senators in the loss, including a home run from Haynie and Streater and a two-bagger from Combs. Haynie had two RBIs, while Streater and Combs both plated a run.
The game was tied 2-2 before the Senators scored to claim a 3-2 lead in the top of the third. The Bucs responded with six runs in the bottom of the frame before both teams scored a run in the fourth and WSCC added two more in the fifth before the rain washed the game out in the top of the sixth.
The Senators (3-2) return to action this weekend with a three-game road trip to Emerson, Georgia, to take on Georgia Highlands at the LakePoints Sports Complex. Friday's single game is scheduled for 2 p.m., with a doubleheader on Saturday set to begin at noon.