GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — In a game that featured 21 hits, 17 walks, seven hit batters, two balks and four different innings in which a team scored at least three runs, Walters State prevailed in its opener at the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series at Sam Suplizio Field.
The third-ranked Senators advanced in the winner's bracket by taking down 12th-ranked Cowley County of Kansas in a slugfest, 16-12, to lift the lid on the tournament in front of 5,233 fans. The game took three hours and 53 minutes to complete.
With the win, the Senators improved to 53-9 on the year, and they will No. 15 Navarro (39-18) in the annual Fireworks Game at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Memorial Day. Navarro knocked off 16th-ranked and two-time defending national champion Chipola in Saturday's second game, 10-6.
The loss dropped the Tigers to 45-13 on the year and into an elimination game Sunday at 2 p.m. against Chipola.
Walters State got a two-out double in the top of the first from Bryce Hodge before Brayden Combs flew out to the base of the mini monster wall in left field against Cowley starting pitcher Brannon Jordan to end the inning.
Senators starting pitcher Alex Haynes tossed a perfect first, striking out a pair to leave the game scoreless after one.
Braydon Runion, Michael Robinson and JL Bland drew three walks to begin the second frame for WSCC, loading the bases with no outs. Mason Streater then drew a walk as well to plate Runion with the first run of the game, and Xavier Arnette followed with a three-run double to the left-center gap to make it a 4-0 lead. Drew Haynie followed with a bunt single, and the throw to first rattled around in the right field bullpen area, allowing Arnette to score and Haynie to move to third.
Cowley County went to the bullpen and brought in Miguel Obeso to relieve Jordan. Obeso recorded a strikeout before hitting Hodge with a pitch, but Combs grounded into a double play to end the top half and keep it 5-0.
Haynes was perfect again in the second inning with another strikeout, and the offense added to the lead in the top of the third. Robinson singled with one out before Bland walked and Streater moved both runners up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt. After Arnette was intentionally walked to load the bases, Each runner moved up again on a wild pitch, with Robinson scoring. Haynie walked to reload the bases, but Jerry Hammons flew out at the wall in left field to end the threat with the lead standing at 6-0.
Cade Stephens became the first base runner for the Tigers in the game when he reached on a leadoff error in the bottom of the third, and Logan Steenstra and Tyler Halstead both drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Cody Milligan followed with a three-run triple to right-center, and Carson Sader followed with an RBI single to make it a 6-4 game.
Grady Davenport and Daniel DeSimone both followed with singles to reload the bases, and another error scored a run, and a sacrifice fly by George Specht to center to knot the score. Stephens drove in a run with a fielder's choice, putting the Tigers on top 7-6 after three innings.
Obeso (L, 5-1) worked a perfect fourth, striking out two batters around a grounder, to keep Cowley County on top, and the Tigers were back on the prowl at the plate in the home half. An error and hit batter put two runners on with no outs, but Haynes picked off the lead runner at second before another error led to a run, increasing the lead to 8-6.
Davenport was hit by a pitch to put two runners on again, and Andrew Lindsey came on in relief of Haynes. Lindsey got pop out and a strikeout to end the inning with it still a two-run margin.
The Senators rallied in the fifth, as Robinson doubled on the first pitch, Bland walked and Streater added a single to load the bases with no outs. Arnette grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring Robinson to cut into the lead. Haynie was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, and Hammons smacked a three-run double to right-center to put the Senators back on top.
Kaid Karnes relieved Obeso, and he hit Hodge with the first pitch. Hodge stole second, but Hammons was cut down at the plate trying to make it a double steal. Combs followed with a two-run homer down the right field line, his 14th of the year, putting WSCC up 12-8.
Lindsey issued two walks and a hit batter around a fly out to load the bases with one out, and Milligan drove in his fourth run of the game with a grounder before Lindsey got a strikeout to end the frame with a 12-9 lead.
Robinson singled to lead off the sixth and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Bland before Streater split the right-center gap with a double to plate a run. Streater took third on a wild pitch, Arnette walked and stole second and Haynie lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score Streater and add a run to the lead, making it 14-9.
Lindsey allowed a leadoff double to Davenport in the bottom of the sixth before striking out the next two batters and got a deep fly ball to send the game to the seventh inning.
Hodge hammered the first pitch from reliever Ethan Swanson in the seventh inning for a solo homer over the left-center wall, his 13th round tripper of the year, to increase the lead to 15-9.
Lindsey (W, 5-0) struck out he leadoff man in the home half and added a strikeout to the second batter, but a wild pitch allowed Steenstra to reach base before Halstead drew a walk. Blake Petty came on in relief of Lindsey, and Milligan ripped a two-run triple to greet him and cut the deficit to four with his sixth RBI of the contest.
Gage Gillian came in to replace Petty after one batter, and Blaze Brothers plated Milligan with a grounder to short before Davenport struck out to end the inning with the score 15-12.
Streater walked with one out in the eighth, and Silas Butler pinch ran for him and moved up to second when Arnette walked. Hunter O'Toole relieved Swanson, and Butler scored when Hammons reached on a two-out error to make it 16-12.
Gillian (S, 6) struck out the first two batters of the eighth and got a fly ball to end the frame in 1-2-3 fashion, and he gave up a leadoff single to Stephens to begin the ninth inning. He responded with a strikeout of Steenstra before Halstead singled to put two runners on with one out. Gillian then struck out Milligan for the second out before a bunt single from Brothers loaded the bases. Davenport represented the tying run, but he grounded out to end the game.