Asher lifts Polk State past Western Nevada
Alec Asher had taken six at-bats in two seasons at Polk State (Fla.) College.
When teammate and designated hitter Brett Jones was hit in the face three days before Polk State left the Sunshine State for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, Asher, a pitcher, was asked to bat as well.
Polk State coach Al Corbeil told Asher he didn’t expect much.
Asher just tried not to strike out.
He did once.
But he also went 2 for 3 with four RBI and two doubles in Polk State’s 10-1, seven-inning, first-round victory Saturday over Western Nevada.
“I just wanted to hit the ball is all,” Asher said.
On the flip side, Asher made sure Western Nevada (47-17) had a hard time doing the same. Asher struck out five and allowed five hits. He loaded the bases in the first inning but escaped by inducing a double play.
In the second inning, he surrendered Western Nevada’s only run, a solo home run by Dillon Ness.
But cut Asher some slack. Like most JUCO athletes, he’d never played before 3,208 fans. So, he took a peek. And nervousness flooded his body.
“I tried not to (look),” said Asher, who on Saturday broke the Polk State (47-10) school record for wins by a pitcher in a single season, improving to 13-1. “But I did in the first. You have to. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you have to let it hit you for a second.”
Once that second was over, Asher dominated for one hour, 50 minutes, and Western Nevada coach D.J. Whittemore singled out his performance after the game.
“I thought their pitcher was a great pitcher, lived up to the billing,” he said.
In the second inning, Asher hit the ball to the wall. His shot carried over the head of Western Nevada left fielder Derrick Pitts and put Polk State ahead 2-1.
In the fifth, with the bases loaded, Asher knocked the ball short of right-fielder Dillon Ness. The ball hopped behind Ness for a three-run double and a 9-1 Polk State lead.
The early blue skies had given way to clouds, which mixed with whipped desert sand and smoke from a distant fire that loitered on the horizon in foggy fashion. Eagles fans down the left-field line were facing 54 mph gusts of dry air and infield dirt.
“Our fans are troopers,” Polk State coach Al Corbeil said.
Outfielders, meanwhile, were simply trying to spot the ball.
“A teammate would say, ‘In, in or back, back,’ if we didn’t pick it up at first,” Polk State left-fielder Michael Danner said.
On the mound, meanwhile, Asher, who has signed to pitch at NCAA Division II powerhouse University of Tampa, had a similar challenge.
“I had to pat the dust out of my eyes,” Asher said, “and try to stay balanced. On a couple of gusts I felt like I was going to blow over.”
For Western Nevada, Andrew Woeck started instead of pitching prospect Dylan Baker, considered by Perfect Game USA to be the No. 1 draft prospect in the junior college ranks. Whittemore said Baker likely will be a first or second-round draft pick by Major League Baseball in early June.
“We started Andrew last week in the Western District tournament first,” Whittemore said. “And we started Andrew in the Region 18 tournament first the week before. So, obviously we think he can win. He’s thrown a lot of good ball games for us.”
In 2 2/3 innings, Woeck gave up six runs — four earned — and five hits.
Anthony Consiglio replaced Whittemore and gave up five hits and four earned runs.