GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Ninth-ranked Iowa Western scored four runs in the ninth inning, capping a run of eight unanswered runs in the final four innings to stun third-ranked Walters State, 11-8, in a battle of the final two undefeated teams in the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series at Sam Suplizio Field.
The Senators trailed 3-0 early, scored eight in a row to take an 8-3 lead after four innings and could not push across another run in the final five innings while the Reivers rallied to put themselves in prime position to play for the national championship.
With the win, the Reivers improve to 51-9 on the year, and they advance to Thursday night's game against No. 15 Navarro (40-17) that is set for 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time. A win on Thursday would put Iowa Western in the national championship game for the first time since 2014 when the Reivers won their third national title.
Navarro advanced to Thursday's game with a 16-5 win over Cowley County in five innings on Tuesday afternoon. The Bulldogs had Wednesday off.
The loss to the Reivers dropped the Senators to 54-10 on the year and they must defeat Central Arizona (48-20) at 5 p.m. Thursday to stave off elimination. Central Arizona defeated Chatt Valley, 14-5, in the afternoon game on Wednesday to stay alive while eliminating the Vaqueros.
Caleb Balgaard singled up the middle with one out against WSCC starter Corey Stone and Gibson Krzeminski followed with a double and Ronald Sweeny was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Greg Bennett walked to bring in a run, and Isaiah Peterson added an RBI single to score Krzeminski to make it a quick 2-0 lead to bring an end to Stone's outing. Andrew Lindsey entered in relief and got a double play ball on his first pitch to end the inning with no further damage.
Iowa Western starting pitcher Jared Simpson worked a perfect bottom of the first inning with a pair of strikeouts and a grounder, keeping the Reivers up 2-0 after one.
Lindsey needed just nine pitches to get through a perfect top half of the second, getting a grounder and two strikeouts to retire Iowa Western in order.
Brayden Combs got the Senators first hit of the game in the bottom of the second with a one-out double down the right field line, but Simpson recorded two more strikeouts to end the threat.
Balgaard singled to lead off the third against Lindsey before Krzeminski added an infield single and Sweeny walked to load the bases with no outs. Bennett added his second RBI of the game with a fielder's choice grounder that retired Sweeny at second, but the Reivers could not push across another run as Lindsey struck out the next two batters to keep the lead at 3-0.
Drew Haynie reached on an error with two outs in the bottom of the third, and Jerry Hammons drew a walk to put a pair of runners on base. Bryce Hodge reached on an error, allowing Haynie to score and put Walters State on the board. Braydon Runion followed with a double down the left field line, scoring Hammons with the second run of the frame, and Combs followed with a three-run homer, his second of the World Series and 15th of the season, to put the Senators on top.
Robinson drew a walk following the home run by Combs, leading to a pitching change for the Reivers, as Jayden Kruse came on in relief of Simpson. Kruse got JL Bland to ground out to end the inning, but Walters State took a 5-3 lead after three.
Lindsey retired the first two batters of the fourth inning before allowing an infield single by leadoff man Cooper Bowman, but another grounder ended the inning with the two-run making intact for WSCC.
Mason Streater reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the fourth, stole second and scored on a two-out RBI double by Hammons to extend the lead. On the next pitch, Hodge blasted a no-doubter two-run home run to left, his 14th of the year which ended the night for Kruse as Alex Firsdon entered on the mound. Firsdon got Runion on strikes to end the inning, but Walters State held an 8-3 lead heading to the fifth.
Sweeny followed a Krzeminski strikeout by reaching on an error with one out in the top of the fifth, and Peterson followed a Bennett strikeout with a single through the right side before Ross Indlecoffer added a single through the left side to load the bases with two outs. Lindsey shook it off and struck out Mason Speirs to quell the rally and keep the Reivers from scoring.
Bland roped a two-out single in the bottom of the fifth before Streater walked, but Xavier Arnette flew out to left field to end the inning.
Colin Kasperbauer led off the sixth inning with a single for Iowa Western, and Bowman reached on an error to put two on with no outs before the Senators turned to Kody Davidson on the mound. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch before Davidson struck out Balgaard before issuing a walk to load the bases. Sweeny lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Kasperbauer, and Bennett brought in two runs with a single but was cut down at second trying to extend it to a double, as the Reivers trimmed the deficit to 8-6.
Haynie walked to begin the home half of the sixth, and Hammons singled up the middle to put two on with no outs. After Hodge struck out swinging, both runners moved up on a wild pitch, but Firsdon got a strikeout and a grounder to end the scoring threat and leave the score 8-6 going to the seventh.
Indlecoffer smacked a solo home run with one out in the seventh to cut the lead in half, but Davidson rebounded with by strikeout out Speirs and Kasperbauer to get out of the frame with no further damage done and the Reivers trailing 8-7.
Firsdon quickly sat the Senators down in order in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a ground out, and Davidson struck out the first two batters in the top of the eighth before surrendering a single to Krzeminski. Sweeny then grounded into a fielder's choice, ending the inning still trailing by a run.
Brandon Doty (W, relieved Firsdon to begin the bottom of the eighth, and Haynie reached base with one out after being hit by a pitch. After a fly ball for the second out, Haynie was picked off for the final out, leaving the score 8-7 entering the ninth.
Davidson hit Bennett with a two-strike pitch and moved him to second with a wild pitch to open the ninth, and Peterson walked to put a pair of runners on base with no outs. Another wild pitch put both runners in scoring position and Indlecoffer was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Gage Gillian entered in relief of Davidson.
Pinch hitter Jevon Mason slapped a two-run, pinch-hit single to put the Reivers back on top, and Jaden Rolffs and added an RBI single to extend the lead to 10-8. Bowman reached on a fielder's choice, as Haynie got Mason out at the plate for the first out of the frame before Zach Joyce came on in relief of Gillian. A wild pitch, followed by a sacrifice fly to right by Balgaard to make it an 11-8 lead after Krzeminski also flew out to finally end the top of the ninth.
Iowa Western turned to closer Trystan Kimmel in the bottom of the ninth, and he notched his nation leading 18th save to close out the win.