Palm Beach, Neosho, Midland and Navarro grab first four berths
Life was a beach Tuesday — Palm Beach (Fla.) State College became the first of four teams to qualify for the 2013 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The Panthers (38-19) ran through the Gulf District tournament in Lakeland, Fla., undefeated, shutting out State College of Florida 3-0 in the championship game.
Joining Palm Beach in the JUCO field Tuesday were two Texas teams, Midland College and Navarro College, and Neosho County Community College from Kansas.
The district title is the first for Palm Beach, which was the state runner-up last May to Polk State.
J.D. Underwood scattered nine hits and struck out two in the complete-game victory, and the Panthers scored one run in the fourth inning and two in the eighth for the win.
Midland won the Southwestern District to become another first-time JUCO qualifier.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been much better than this,” Midland coach David Coleman said. “The birth of my children outdid this, but that’s about it.”
The Chaparrals got a third-inning grand slam from Chris Shaw in an 8-2 win over Grayson County College.
“That grand slam loosened things up and let us play,” Coleman said.
Grayson lost its tournament opener, then won four straight elimination games, including 4-1 over Howard on Tuesday morning, to get to the title game. The teams were the No. 1 seeds from their respective leagues.
Midland, though, earned its first JUCO berth by getting nine strikeouts from Jeremy Filipek.
The Chaps (47-13) are No. 16 in the NJCAA national rankings.
Coleman joked that the game seemed to take forever.
“When you’re winning, they seem to go slower than when you’re losing,” he said. “And the way Grayson can hit, there wasn’t anybody celebrating until that last out.”
In Lufkin, Texas, Navarro, the 2011 national champion, held off Alvin 4-2 to win the Southern District. The Bulldogs (45-15) are ranked ninth in the nation.
Alvin, which reached the title game with a 4-3 elimination-round victory earlier Tuesday over San Jacinto College-North, led Navarro 2-0 going into the sixth inning.
The Bulldogs, though, scored three runs on four hits and one error in the sixth inning and added one run in the eighth.
In the ninth, Navarro turned it over to Blake Griffin, who got two outs before hitting a batter. He ended it by fielding a grounder back to the mound and throwing the runner out at first for his second save of the tournament.
Neosho will bring back its “SHOtime” brand of baseball, which won over fans last season.
The Panthers scored four runs in the first inning to take control of the championship game of the Central District against Coffeyville Community College on the way to a 7-3 victory.
The win avenged Neosho’s only loss of the tournament, 5-3 on Monday night.
Shortstop Bobby Wernes drove in two runs on a sacrifice bunt in the first inning and bunted in another run in the fifth on a sacrifice, giving him three RBI without recording a hit.
Chance Sinclair won his second game of the tournament with a seven-hit, six-strikeout performance. He walked only one in the complete game.
The other six district tournaments begin later this week.
JUCO begins May 25 at Suplizio Field and runs through June 1. Tickets are on sale at outlets throughout the Western Slope and online at jucotickets.com.
Tickets to the tournament banquet on May 24 at Two Rivers Convention Center are $40 each and on sale at the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and the JUCO office in the Home Loan building. Tables of 10 are available for $400.