GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Walters State redshirt freshman Michael Robinson has been nearly impossible to get out in two games at the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series, and Monday night, he provided some in-game fireworks for the Senators before the annual Memorial Day postgame fireworks at Sam Suplizio Field.
Robinson grounded a two-out, bases loaded, full count single on the eighth pitch of his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring a pair of runs and capping a wild rally by Walters State for a 6-5 win over Navarro, stunning the crowd of 7,319 and the Bulldogs after they led 5-1 entering the eighth inning and 5-4 going to the ninth.
Robinson now has six hits in his seven official at-bats and he has reached base safely in 10 of his 11 plate appearances in the tournament, providing a spark in the middle of the lineup. Robinson, Drew Haynie and Bryce Hodge each had two hits in the win, with Robinson driving in three runs, including the two biggest of the night.
With the win, the third-ranked Senators improved to 2-0 in Grand Junction, running their winning streak to nine straight and improving to 54-9 on the year. WSCC will get another day off on Tuesday before facing the winner of Tuesday night's game between Iowa Western (49-9) and Central Arizona (47-19) on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
Ninth-ranked Iowa Western advanced Sunday with an 18-10 victory over Connors State, while Central Arizona is the other 2-0 team in the World Series after defeating Monroe 12-4 on Saturday and Chattahoochee Valley 10-2 on Monday.
The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for Navarro, and it dropped the 15th-ranked Bulldogs to 39-17 on the year and into an elimination game on Tuesday. It will be a quick turnaround for the Texas team as they face 12th-ranked Cowley County at 3 p.m. to avoid heading home early. Cowley County eliminated Monroe in the second game on Monday, 16-6.
Zebulon Matthews tossed a perfect top half of the first and Navarro's Ryan Johnston allowed a leadoff single to Haynie before getting a double play and a fly ball to end the first frame with the game scoreless.
Stacey Bailey led off the top of the second inning with a solo homer to right-center field, putting the Bulldogs on top 1-0 before Matthews got two strikeouts and a grounder to limit the damage.
Robinson drew a two-out walk in the home half but was stranded at first, and Navarro added to its lead in the top of the third. Kyle Hawkins smoked a leadoff triple and scored on a bunt single by Travis Washburn. After a Mason Holt single and a black by Matthews, Kyle Landers scored a run with a ground ball to make it a 3-0 lead.
Xavier Arnette walked with one out in the bottom of the third for WSCC and stole second base and moved up to third on a wild pitch but was stranded 90 feet from the plate to leave the score at 3-0 after three.
Matthews worked around a one-out walk to get a pair of strikeouts to end the top of the fourth, and the Senators put a threat together in the bottom of the inning. Hodge led off the frame with an infield single before Brayden Combs drew a walk and Braydon Runion was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Robinson walked in a run to put Walters State on the board, and Colin Wyman came on in relief of Johnston and got two strikeouts and a grounder to keep the lead 3-1.
Washburn singled with one out and was followed by a base hit from Holt with an error on the play allowing Washburn to score from first base bad Holt to end up on third. Landers then drew a walk to put runners on the corners, but Matthews got Bailey to ground into a double play to end the threat with the score at 4-1.
Wyman allowed a two-out single to Hodge in the bottom of the fifth but nothing else, and Cash Rugely led off the top of the sixth with a solo homer for the Bulldogs to extend the lead again. Jose Gonzalez followed with a single before Matthews got a pop fly for the first out, and Blake Petty came on in relief. Petty walked Kyle Hawkins before getting two fly balls to end the inning with the Senators trailing 5-1.
Walters State got one base runner on in the bottom of the sixth when Runion reached on a wild pitch on a strikeout to begin the frame, but Wyman worked around it and left him at first base and kept the four-run lead heading into the seventh.
Petty issued a two-out walk before getting a strikeout to end the top of the seventh, and Wyman needed just two pitches to get two outs in the home half before Jerry Hammons reached on an error. Wyman responded with a strikeout to end the inning.
Jack Collins entered the game in relief of Petty to open the eighth inning, and he issued a walk to Dawson Woods with one out in the frame before getting out of it with a fly ball and a strikeout.
Combs led off the bottom of the eighth by reaching on an error, and Runion followed with a massive home run to left-center, nearly clearing the outfield bleachers with a two-run shot, his 11th of the year, to cut the deficit in half. Robinson followed with a double and moved up 90 feet on a grounder from JL Bland before scoring on a grounder by Silas Butler to make it a 5-4 game heading to the ninth.
Collins retired the first two batters of the ninth before Landers reached second base on an error. Landers ended up at third on a wild pitch, but Bailey grounded out to end the inning.
Pepper Jones relieved Wyman to open the bottom of the ninth, and he faced the top of the lineup for the Senators. Haynie led off the frame with a single, and Hammons moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt. Jones then fanned Hodge before Combs walked to put two runners on, and Parker Stinnett pinch ran for Combs. Runion walked to load the bases for Robinson, who singled through the left side and scored Haynie and Stinnett to win it.
Runion added two RBIs in the victory, and Butler had the other for the Senators.
Collins (3-0) picked up the win after working two hitless frames and allowing just one base runner while fanning two batters. Matthews surrendered five runs (four earned) on eight hits while striking out five and walking two in 5 1/3 innings in his first action since the TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII Tournament championship game on May 10. Petty didn't allow a hit while striking out two and walking a pair in 1 2/3 innings of relief.
Washburn and Holt both had two hits in the loss for the Bulldogs, with Washburn, Bailey, Landers and Rugely each driving in a run.
Jones (1-3) took the loss after giving up two earned runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning, blowing a save opportunity forte first time in more than two months. Johnston allowed an earned run on two hits in three-plus innings, while Wyman was great until his final frame, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits with eight strikeouts in five innings of work.