Connors St. shows pop at plate in win over Navarro
Connors State (Okla.) College is one of the best hitting teams in the nation, and the Cowboys showed it on opening night of the 2013 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The Cowboys hit the ball all over Suplizio Field to defeat Navarro (Texas) College 10-9 on Saturday night.
It was the Cowboys’ first win in the JUCO World Series in their past four appearances and first since 1985. They went 0-2 in 2003, 2006 and 2008.
“We’re all so competitive,” Connors State coach Perry Keith said. “This has been this team all year. We find ways to win. We know what we’re doing at the plate. We kind of grind things out.
“That’s been us all year. We keep preaching to these guys just be us, whatever us is.”
Connors State came into the World Series leading the nation in RBI (486), second in slugging percentage (.516), home runs (58), runs scored (515) and third in batting average (.355).
“These bats fit us and the way we play,” Keith said. “We’re back in the era (where) strikeouts aren’t cool. Same deal in the big leagues. Those guys are sticking a needle in their rear and strikeouts are OK. Now, all of a sudden they’re not. You strike out and you can’t play. It’s the same thing with this. You have to be able to bunt, hit and run and make people throw strikeouts.”
Connors State (53-9) used a bunt and a sacrifice fly to score its first run in its first at-bat for a 1-0 lead.
The Cowboys strung together back-to-back base hits and a Yariel Gonzales triple in the third for a 3-0 lead.
“I feel like we are one of the best hitting teams in the nation right now,” Gonzales, a freshman from San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, said through interpreter and teammate Daniel Concepcion. “I have confidence in my teammates. I believe this team will score a lot of runs.”
Another sacrifice fly scored the Cowboys’ fourth run.
Navarro (43-16), the 2011 national champion, responded with a four-run fifth on four hits and a stolen base, but Connors came right back with three more in the fifth to chase Navarro starter Lukas Schiraldi.
Korey Keith scored on a wild pitch, Gonzales scored on a ground out and Philip Diedrick scored on balk.
“No excuses,” Navarro coach Whoa Dill said. “He just didn’t have his best stuff. The guy was 10-0 going into the game. He gave us everything and got us here. It just wasn’t his best game.”
Schiraldi (10-1) allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings.
Connors added three more in the sixth. Eric Kirkpatrick reached on an error, then Dalton Daniels and Christian Perez bunted for base hits to load the bases. Keith followed with a RBI single, then Daniels scored on a fielder’s choice. Keith scored on a sacrifice fly for a 10-4 lead.
“We make guys pitch,” Keith said. “We know our strike zone. We can do a lot of things. We broke open that one inning with the bunt. We can hit and run.”
The Bulldogs came back with three in the seventh. Drake Roberts drove in the first run with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly. Tyler Wilson doubled and scored on Reichstein’s single.
“With our club all year, we scored late in the game a lot,” Roberts said. “We never hung our heads. We never got down on ourselves and stayed positive.”
Navarro scored two more in the eighth and had a runner on, but Perez made a running, sliding catch for the third out to keep Connors ahead 10-9.
“He went and chased those two balls down in the gap,” Keith said. “I told Whoa after the game it’s a good thing our center fielder has a big glove. He’s a converted shortstop. We needed a center fielder. I told him in 1994, I had a shortstop I moved out there in Julio Lugo. He played shortstop in the big leagues for 13 years. It might be a good omen.”
Connors starting pitcher Kelvin Rivas picked up the victory. He allowed seven runs on eight hits and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings.
“First of all, I think God for this victory,” Rivas said, also translated by Concepcion. Rivas is a sophomore from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. “It’s not a pretty win, but we found a way to win the game.
“I know the field here is an offensive field. The main thing to do is keep the ball down and I’ll be just fine.”
Justin Ferrell worked 2 1/3 innings for the save.