Stumpf lifts San Jac into JUCO championship
Stumpf lifts San Jac into JUCO championship
This was one of the most frustrating seasons for the San Jacinto (Texas) College-North baseball team, and yet, it could turn out to be one of the best.
San Jacinto overcame a slow start this season that had coach Tom Arrington scratching his head, then won three extra-inning games in the Southern District tournament to qualify for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Now, the Gators (41-24), who defeated Gordon (Ga.) College 7-1 on Friday night, play Iowa Western Community College (61-6) for the national title at 7 tonight at Suplizio Field.
“Maybe that’s why I’m so pleased about it,” Arrington said. “I saw a lot of disconnect early on. I saw a lot of not being able to maintain consistency because of not knowing an identity of who they were.
“We’d dominate a team, then drop one. It wasn’t quite there as far as finishing a conference series and maintaining it throughout.
“There was a moment in regionals. They stuck it out. We played those three extra-inning games and it was murder on us.”
But the Gators pulled together through those extra-inning games.
“We played that one that was 16 innings. I think I slept from the 10th through the 14th because it was 2:30 in the morning,” Arrington said. “There were some relationships built and commitments made to stick it out. That’s when it changed. There was a long time waiting for it. There was a lot of talk and meetings.”
Through it all, the team grew closer and committed to fight to qualify for the World Series when some thought the Gators wouldn’t make it.
“I think this group of guys have responded to adversity all year,” San Jacinto sophomore Kyle Bacak said. “After we started out slow, we knew we were better than we were playing. We had to come out and prove it to everybody. This is exactly where we expected to be. This is where we want to be.”
They are playing for the school’s sixth national title after starter Daniel Stumpf shut down the hottest hitting team in the World Series.
The sophomore left-hander limited the Highlanders to one run on 10 hits and struck out six in a complete game.
“I was definitely ready to pitch,” Stumpf said. “I pitched that first game that Saturday and was ready to go Monday.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a no-no pitcher. I don’t try to go out there and try to throw no-hitters. If I do, I do. I try to get them to roll over and ground out. That’s my game plan all along.”
Gordon had a few opportunities early to score on Stumpf. The Highlanders’ leadoff hitter reached in the second, third and fourth innings, but Gordon couldn’t push one run across.
The Highlanders had runners on second and third with one out in the second, but Stumpf struck out Jody Stone and Christian Davila to end the threat.
Gordon’s Grant Massey led off the third with a single and moved up to second on Brian Jacob’s single. Bobby Woodall singled to right center with two outs, but Massey, running on a sore hamstring, wasn’t able to score.
The Highlanders’ leadoff batter reached again in the fourth and was left at third base.
“We identified they were hitting to the count a little bit, so we started going backwards a little bit more,” Arrington said of the Gators’ game plan of throwing off-speed pitches early in at-bats to get ahead in the count.
“We noticed they have a good stance top through bottom and have a lower base when they’re swinging. We know they’re going to put it in play, so you understand that and we ended up with no errors, which is nice.”
San Jacinto ended the scoring drought with three in the fourth. Kirby Taylor led off with a single up the middle. Esteban Gomez was hit by a pitch and Kyle Bacak delivered a two-run double to right-center field. Galli Cribbs singled to right field and Bacak scored from second when Drew Adams’ throw bounced over Jacobs’ mitt at the plate.
“I was just trying to get a pitch I can handle,” Bacak said. “They were pitching me away all day. That one at-bat I adjusted.”
The Gators’ Reggie Wilson led off the fifth with a triple to left-center field and Gordon coach Travis McClanahan came out with the hook, pulling starter Zach Smith. Usually Gordon’s closer, Smith allowed four runs on five hits and struck out three in four innings.
“We just thought it was the better matchup,” McClanahan said of starting Smith instead of Jeb Dills.
Byrd greeted Gordon reliever Andrew Fessler, who threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball against San Jacinto on Wednesday, with a base hit to score Wilson. Byrd scored on a bases-loaded walk.
In the fifth, Byrd walked and scored from second on a pop up that went untouched in the infield for a 6-0 lead.
San Jac added a run in the seventh on back-to-back doubles.
Gordon avoided a shutout for the second consecutive night with a run in the ninth, but it was too late to prevent the Gators’ improbable late-season run to the championship game.