Big Ben strikes late, lifts Central Alabama to JUCO title game
Hall's RBI single in 11th inning puts Trojans into final game
Ben Hall got another chance and took advantage of it.
The Central Alabama Community College sophomore was up to bat with runners in scoring position for the third time since the eighth inning Friday night. He came through with a run-scoring single to plate Ryan Raspino from second base to lift the Trojans to a 14-13 victory in 11 innings over Cochise (Ariz.) College in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field.
“Right after the first one when I struck out on the ball up, I was hoping for another shot so I could come through for my team,” Hall said. “These guys never give up. They always fight. I wanted to win this for them.”
Central Alabama (42-14) plays Palm Beach State (Fla.) College for the national title at 7 tonight at Suplizio Field.
Hall was up with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and the Trojans trailing 13-9 when he struck out.
He had another opportunity in the ninth after Central Alabama scored four runs in the inning to tie the game. Blaine Miller doubled home a run, then Raspino had a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
With two on and two out, Hall struck out again.
“How about my guys, man?” Central Alabama coach Wynn Fletcher said. “They would not stop.
“Incredible. I really don’t have any words right now. I’m happy to be in the position we’re in right now. To start the season 0-6 and be in this position says a lot about your kids.”
Central Alabama relief pitcher Gabe Dees gave his teammates a chance, pitching 3 2/3 shutout innings. He allowed one hit and struck out seven for the win.
“He was pumping it,” Fletcher said. “He didn’t look that sharp the other day, but he got it behind him. He was special tonight.”
Cochise (52-19) scored six runs on six hits in the sixth for a 10-6 lead.
Stephan Desgagne got it started with a solo home run. Frank Salas came through with a bases-loaded double over Central Alabama’s center fielder to give Cochise a 7-6 lead. Esteban Bastidas and Jake Luna followed with RBI singles. Bastidas scored when Luna was caught stealing.
Cochise added a run in the seventh on a Nate Hale sacrifice fly for an 11-6 lead.
The Trojans, who stranded 17 on base, didn’t quit. They scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Raspino had a run-scoring double. Darius Reese followed with an RBI single, and B.J. Martin drove in a run. Cochise pitcher Jacob Potts entered the game in relief and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to avoid further damage.
Central Alabama lost the momentum in the eighth when relief pitcher Matthew Norton hit a batter with the bases loaded. The Apaches added a run on a sacrifice fly for a 13-9 lead.
“The whole thing, pretty soon it’s just going to be a surreal experience,” Cochise coach Todd Inglehart said. “As I look back on it, it’s going to take a little bit, just a couple weeks for it to sink in. It was an incredible run with these guys. It was just a pleasure to be around these guys, and our goal was always one more day, one more day together.”
Central Alabama grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Reese led off with a triple to left-center field and scored on a Hall groundout.
Cochise got the run back in the top of the second when Austin Nelson doubled and scored on Desgagne’s single.
The Apaches took the lead in the third. Frank Salas had a RBI double to the right field corner, then Central Alabama left fielder Zach Rinehart couldn’t get to a fly ball off Esteban Bastidas’ bat, allowing Salas to score for a 3-1 lead. Tyler Bess followed with a RBI single up the middle for a 4-1 lead.
Reese led off the third inning with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly, but that was it in the inning. Cochise held a 4-2 lead.
In the fourth, Raspino drew a two-out walk. Reese followed with a single, then Hall tripled to center to score Raspino and Reese and tie the game 4-4.
Bo Edwards gave the Trojans a 6-4 lead with his fourth home run of the season, a two-run shot to the left field bleachers in the fifth.