Pioneers hit their stride
Spartanburg outslugs Walters State in hitfest
It was not a day for pitchers.
It was, however, a day to hit, and boy, did Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College and Walters State (Tenn.) Community College hit.
Each team had 18 hits, including two home runs apiece, and after three-and-a-half hours Saturday, the top-ranked Pioneers prevailed, 19-11, in Game 3 of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“That was a scary day,” Spartanburg coach Tim Wallace said. “With the power and the wind. Those guys have some juice. Ken (Campbell) still gets some big ol’ guys who can hit.”
Every time Spartanburg built any kind of lead, the Senators came back. Four-nothing after a half-inning? Walters cut it in half in the bottom, then took the lead in the third with a four-spot, sparked by Jared Allen’s two-run double and a solo home run by Reid Matthews.
Allen tied a tournament record by going 6 for 6, ironically set by another Walters State hitter, Tary Scott, who had six hits in a game in 1984. Allen hit a home run in his first at-bat and added three singles and two doubles, including one to lead off the ninth. He ended up scoring, and the Senators had one runner on with two out, but Corey Greeson grounded out to end the game.
“We have 18 hits and score 11 runs and they had 18 hits and scored 19 runs,” Allen said. “That just shows you what kind of day it was all the way around. It was a tough day. We had a lot of hits, scored a lot of runs. Pitching has been great for us all the way up to today; it was just one of those days.
“I expected us to score some runs. We played them early in the year and knew they could hit a little bit. I was hoping with us being the home team it would come down to who scored last, and hopefully that was going to be us. We scored last, and we still didn’t win.”
That’s because Spartanburg scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning, with Wesley Rogers leading off with a bunt single. After Matt White walked, Wallace called a double steal even though the Pioneers were up 15-10 at the time.
“I told them you can’t get enough runs,” Wallace said. “I felt bad running in the (ninth), but we ain’t gotten them out all day. I finally called it off at nine (run lead in the eighth), but I was sweating over there. I thought you couldn’t sweat in this climate.”
The pivotal play came way back in the fifth inning, even though 11 runs were scored after Shell McCain made the defensive play of the game.
With the Pioneers clinging to a 10-9 lead, the Senators had runners at first and second with two out. Allen laced a base hit to left, his fourth of the day, and Campbell sent Jake Farr to the plate. McCain’s throw was perfect, ending the scoring threat, and the inning.
“I told my buddy (Josh Escoffier) who was pitching we were going to get him a shutout inning,” McCain said. “We hadn’t had one in a while, and we were going to get a shutout inning any way we could. They kind of left it up to me, and I did the best I could.”
The Pioneers (46-13, 1-0 JUCO) didn’t respond with a run in the sixth, and the Senators (37-17, 0-1) scored one in the bottom of the sixth, but Spartanburg scored four runs in the seventh for a seemingly safe 15-10 lead.
“We knew we were going to have to hit,” said No. 9 hitter Champ Rowland, who hit a home run leading off the second inning. “That’s a good-hitting ballclub. Me, I’m just trying to put the ball in play, and they picked me up.”
The home run, though, was a pleasant result of putting the ball in play.
“That’s very true,” he said with a big grin. “I’m not used to that, but I’ll take it.”
Walters State plays at 2 today against Navarro (Texas) College to stay alive in the tournament.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Campbell said. “I just mentioned to them: In 2003 Southern Nevada lost their first game and came back and won the World Series.
“You’ve got to give Spartanburg credit. They hung in there and hit the ball just as well as we did. They deserved to win.”
Spartanburg, which has today off and plays Connors State (Okla.) College on Monday afternoon, used four pitchers, with starter Dylan Rogers struggling through 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. Rickey Rice lasted only two-thirds of an inning, and after a rocky start, Escoffier, who got the win, went 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on nine hits.
“It’s hard to win here and especially bringing as many guys here for the first time, for them to see, it’s just baseball,” Wallace said. “That game was a fluke. You’ve got two clubs who can swing it, and the pitchers don’t handle it well. You get games like this out here.”
Walters needed six pitchers, with Chase Cunningham, the second man used, taking the loss.
“Every time we made a run, they came right back,” Campbell said. “They’ve got an excellent ballclub, they’re talented, they’re athletic. We got 18 hits and 11 runs. You’re supposed to win games like that. We just had a bad day on the mound.”
Or, as McCain said, “It was a big slugfest, that’s what it was.”