Files selected Preston Walker Most Valuable Player
On the final play of Saturday’s championship game, Navarro (Texas) College catcher J.T. Files opted not to listen to his coach.
With Casey Grayson on first and nobody out, Files got a bunt signal from Whoa Dill.
Instead, he swung away.
“I saw both (the corner infielders) crash,” Files said. “I knew if I laid down a bunt, Casey was getting thrown out at second, so I pulled back, swung, and the rest is history.”
A two-run, walk-off home run that sailed over the right-field wall, winning the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series title for the Bulldogs.
After the game, Files’ received The Daily Sentinel Preston Walker Most Valuable Player Award and the Jay W. Tolman Outstanding Defensive Player Award.
“J.T.‘s been a big key to our team for two years,” said Dill. “He always comes up with the clutch hits.”
During the regular season, Files was a consistent offensive player, hitting .297 with a team-high 14 doubles and three home runs.
Once at JUCO, Files struggled early in the tournament.
In the first two games he had only one hit, but by Saturday said he had adapted to the atmosphere of the stadium.
In the championship game, he finished with three hits and three RBI — two on the home run and one on a first-inning single.
“I finally started to see the ball better, started to relax a little bit, started getting used to playing in front of all the fans, and finally my swing started coming around and it paid off,” Files said.
Although his key play in the tournament may have been the walk-off home run, he said he takes pride in his defense.
As the catcher for the Bulldogs, Files calls the pitches, a skill he’s honed since he was a youngster and will take next year to the University of South Alabama.
Even in the championship game, Dill estimated that the coaching staff called only 10 pitches.
“He’s probably the smartest catcher I’ve ever had as a coach,” Dill said. “He looks over every once in a while to see if I want something, but it’s his game.”
First basean Casey Grayson called him the “one of the best” defensive catchers he’s ever played with.
“He calls a great games, he’s all about pitchers,” Grayson said.
And the fans cheered his special moment after the game.
While receiving one award, a fan yelled out “J.T., you’re my hero!” which he responded to with a fist pump.
Files said ultimately, the awards are a payoff for all the work he’s put in as a player.
“A lot of people don’t understand what’s going on back here (behind the plate),” he said. “For me to get (the awards), it does make me realize that it does pay off.”