Rally ‘Dogs: Behind Rally the Turtle, Navarro (Texas) College wins first JUCO title
Whoa Dill wouldn’t touch Rally T. Turtle, but he kissed it.
The Navarro (Texas) College baseball coach kept his promise Saturday night after sophomore catcher J.T. Files hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning to give the Bulldogs a 6-4 victory over Central Arizona College, their first national baseball title.
Navarro’s national title is the first for the Southern District since 1996, when Northeast Texas College won the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series crown.
“He promised,” Stringer said. “It hit me in the head. I took it to him. I knew he’d hold his promise. This is an unbelievable feeling.”
Stringer, Rally’s “dad,” raced back to the dugout, grabbed the turtle and brought it straight to Dill.
The coach shook his head, realizing he had to fulfill his promise.
“I kissed that turtle,” Dill said. “I hope you all saw it, because I’m not doing it again.”
Rally became an instant hit in Grand Junction and the Bulldogs went with the turtle’s star status.
“The turtle thing has taken on a life of its own,” Files said. “It’s more popular than all of us. It gave us something to take our mind off the game. I guess it worked.”
Files not only had the game-winning hit, he got the Bulldogs (45-17) going in the first inning with an RBI single to score Stringer. Wes Theiss followed with a two-run double.
Central Arizona (56-15) got on the board in the top of the second when Willie Johnson hit his third home run of the tournament and fifth of the season.
The Vaqueros added two runs in the third to tie the game 3-3. Jordan Weymouth singled home one run and Nick Carrillo added a sacrifice fly.
David Harris put Navarro back in front, 4-3, with a leadoff home run over the left-field wall in the fourth. It was his fourth home run of the tournament and seventh of the season.
Central Arizona pushed one across in the sixth on R.J. Santigate’s single before Navarro left fielder Rory Myers threw a dart to Theiss, who caught the ball, turned and tagged out Johnson at third base.
Navarro’s defense turned its third double play in the eighth got out of a jam in the 10th with the help of Theiss’ catch in foul territory.
“That was a great play by Wes Theiss,” Dill said. “He made sure he had room.”
Justin Thomas picked up the win in relief of Austin Pruitt, who gave up four runs on 10 hits in nine innings. Central Arizona’s Eric Wooten took the loss in relief of Zach Dando.
“I let Pruitt have Keenyn, because I thought he could handle him with the changeup. You’re going to see that guy (Walker) on TV making highlight reels,” Dill said.
“Once he got the single, I went straight to Thomas. I knew he was going to keep us in the game. Everything fell into place.”
In the bottom of the 10th, with Casey Grayson on first after reaching on an error, Dill put down the bunt sign to Files.
“I still had the bunt,” Files said. “I saw the first baseman and third baseman crash. I knew if I laid down a bunt, it’s an automatic out at second, so I pulled the bat back. It was a pitch I could handle and I drove it.”
Dill didn’t mind one bit that Files swung away on a bunt call.
“We talk about when both guys crash like that, I don’t have a problem with them putting the ball in play if it’s on a line, you know what I mean,” Dill said. “He not only put it on a line, he got it out of here.”