2nd-fiddle win: Harper’s ejection overshadows Gators’ victory
The stakes were high Wednesday night, and it showed.
In the most anticipated game of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, top-ranked San Jacinto (Texas) College-North outlasted No. 2 College of Southern Nevada 10-8, but the final score was overshadowed by the ejection of Bryce Harper, projected to be the No. 1 pick in next week’s Major League Baseball amateur draft.
“It was a high intensity games between two good teams,” San Jacinto catcher Ryan Hornback said.
Although the Gators did a lot of things right to win the game, the turning point came in the top of the fifth inning when Harper struck out looking, then was ejected by home plate umpire Don Gilmore. Harper’s coach, Tim Chambers, said his catcher didn’t say anything after the strikeout, but he clearly drew a line in the right-hand batter’s box with his bat, apparently suggesting where he thought the pitch was, as he headed to the dugout.
“On a stage like this in this environment, was (Harper) wrong to do it? Absolutely, but in a situation like this, I’m sure it deserves a warning,” Chambers said. “It was an awful quick trigger. He walked back to the dugout with his head down and bang (he was ejected). In my opinion, it’s a terrible call.
“If it’s a regular-season game and you want to make an example out of a guy, go for it, but not in front of 15,000 people.”
Harper is suspended for the Coyotes’ next two games because he was ejected earlier this season for taunting.
Article 18 of the NJCAA rulebook states a player’s second suspension in a season warrants a two-game suspension.
“I caught the ball and heard strike three and I didn’t see what happened behind me,” Hornback said. “Our intensity raised when it happened because we knew they were going to try and fight back for him.”
San Jacinto plays Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College at 7:30 p.m. and Southern Nevada drops into the losers’ bracket and faces Iowa Western at 3 p.m.
It wasn’t the only incident involving Harper. In the first inning he bumped into San Jacinto first baseman Deric Hawkins and appeared to step on his foot on a fielder’s choice.
Hawkins looked to be favoring his knee, and after spending a few minutes on his back in pain, the San Jacinto first baseman approached Harper and had to be held back by Gators coach Tom Arrington.
Arrington said that was nothing more than two focused teams playing in a game with a lot of intensity.
“We were anticipating they would be one of the toughest opponents we’d seen all year,” Arrington said. “We took that approach and Tim does a great job.”
After Harper was ejected, the Coyotes seemed driven to respond. In the bottom of the sixth, CSN chased Gators starting pitcher Chris McKenzie, scoring three runs, led by an RBI single by Harper’s replacement, Ryan Scott. The Gators replaced McKenzie with Mark Herrera, who lasted only three batters before Clay Schrader replaced him.
Schrader, a hard-throwing right-hander, got the Gators out of the inning by striking out Marvin Campbell, but the Coyotes were able to cut the Gators’ lead to 9-8.
“I try to work efficiently and do the best I can,” Schrader said. “I wanted to keep my pitch count down and try to get out of the inning as fast as I could.”
Schrader shut the Coyotes down the rest of the way, finishing with eight strikeouts in 32⁄3 innings.
Hornback said he was confident the Gators would pull out the win once Schrader entered the game.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind, we were going to win that game once (Schrader) came in,” Hornback said. “He’s a great pitcher and he was going to fight as hard as he could to get all the outs left.”
With Schrader building momentum on the mound, San Jacinto added a run in the eighth when Jarrett Higgins scored on a passed ball for a 10-8 lead.
“The whole season has been back and forth as far as our rankings, and it’s just a big game,” Schrader said. “Everybody was feeling it and we wanted to come in and win this thing.”