Chaps’ big bats
Midland hitters in the zone in victory over Kaskaskia
With three starting pitchers entering the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series without a loss, Kaskaskia (Ill.) College’s forte appeared to be pitching, and Saturday the Blue Devils threw their ace.
But Nick Gardewine’s 9-0 record and 1.67 ERA didn’t slow the highest scoring team in the nation, Midland (Texas) College, which got back in the swing of playing after a 10-day layoff.
The Chaparrals rapped 15 hits and made quick work of the Blue Devils (39-11), dispatching them 12-2 in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.
Midland scored in every inning but one, and when Gardewine was replaced by a reliever to start the fifth inning, the Chaparrals (48-13) cranked up their hitting another notch, scoring seven runs on seven hits in the frame to conclude the game early.
Midland coach David Coleman said he thought Gardewine is an exceptional pitcher, but his team took him deep into counts, drew some walks and delivered some timely hits.
“We hadn’t played in 10 days or whatever it’s been, and just the timing and the rhythm of the game concerned me, but I thought our hitters got on time,” Coleman said. “I thought we put some good swings together and had some pretty competitive at-bats, and I think that kind of propelled us and gave us a little bit of freedom to be more aggressive, like we were against the relievers.”
Chris Shaw, who hit a solo home run in the third inning, the game’s only hit to leave the park, said the Chaparrals’ first-round performance is a good sign.
“It’s always a good feeling, going out there and hitting the best guy that they’ve got,” Shaw said. “That’s what we want to do. We’ve been seeing good pitching all year. ... Our approach is geared toward good pitching, so I think we’ll have some success in the tournament.”
Coleman also thought his team was able to settle into the game because of the pitching of Jason Zgardowski, who limited Kaskaskia to four hits, and Midland’s defense.
Shortstop Joel Atkinson was stellar in the field, smoothly moving toward second base to make what could have been tough plays look routine. And center fielder Blair Beck channeled his inner Willie Mays to make a catch on the run toward the center-field wall.
“I think the thing that gave us a little bit of momentum is Zgardowski went out and gave us a very solid start, and we made some plays defensively,” Coleman said. “Blair Beck makes a big-time catch, and then Atkinson made a nice play at short.
“And so it just kind of settled the nerves, and (you) kind of get into the tournament and get that first one over with.”
Beck’s catch off a deep drive by Kaskaskia cleanup hitter Dennon Koziol was the defensive play of the game, as it completed a 1-2-3 third inning after the Blue Devils had tied the game 2-2 in the top of the second.
“I don’t know how he caught it, to be real honest with you,” Coleman said. “He’s a good defender, and he goes and gets balls well. He just got a really good jump on the ball and got a really good break, and his angle was just true. He just kind of went for it. He had nothing to lose. It’s a double if he doesn’t just go for it.”
Shaw followed in the bottom of the third with his home run, giving Midland the lead for good. He knew he hit the ball well, but watching the left fielder left him wondering where the ball actually went.
“I was sitting on a fastball, and he threw me a changeup, so I was little bit out front,” Shaw said. “I got a good piece of the barrel on it. I didn’t know it was gone off the bat. I saw the left fielder, and he kind of didn’t know where it was, so I was like, ‘I’m not sure if it’s getting out.’ But I looked up and didn’t see the ball, so that was a good feeling rounding second, that’s for sure.”
The Chaparrals added two runs in the fourth for a 5-2 lead. Then, after Zgardowski survived two walks in the top of the fifth, Midland’s bats erupted. The Chaparrals batted around the order with the ninth batter of the inning, Hunter Redman lacing a two-run single to end the contest.
The hit was Redman’s third, and Atkinson joined him with three hits. Only two of Midland’s hits went for extra bases.