Break out the bats
Chipola hits five home runs in victory over McLennan
Chipola College (Florida) coach Jeff Johnson eschewed traditional baseball logic Wednesday when he told Jose Caballero to hit a home run.
That unorthodox piece of advice worked out as Caballero ended an already offensively tilted game with a walk-off grand slam to seal the Indians’ 19-11 over McLennan Community College (Texas) in eight innings.
The teams combined to hit nine home runs — the highest single-game total at this year’s Alpine Bank Junior College World Series — and peppered 36 hits to all parts of Suplizio Field.
But it was Caballero’s home run that meant the most to the Indians (48-9, 3-1 JUCO) against the Highlanders (52-13, 1-2).
“I don’t think I’ve ever in my life done this before,” Johnson said, smirking. “I went up to (Caballero) with the bases loaded and said ‘Hit this ball out of the park, would ya?’ ”
“He went out there and did it. That’s a once-in-a-million thing that happened right there. Normally, it’s the opposite. Normally, it’s shorten it up and be straight to the ball because he’ll try and do what he did tonight.”
Caballero, who is from Panama, said he’s never had a coach tell him to hit a home run before, but it worked in Grand Junction.
“When he told me that, I went up there to hit a home run,” Caballero said. “That’s all I wanted to do. I got up to the plate, I swing, I kept fouling it off, then I swing my hardest and I hit it.”
It was one of two home runs for Caballero and one of five for Chipola. Caballero’s teammate, Reynaldo Rivera, also clubbed a pair of home runs, including one that banged off the scoreboard.
Caballero’s first home run broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the second inning. McLennan strung together multiple singles in the top half of the inning to build its lead, but a double from Chipola’s Trey Dawson — where McLennan’s right fielder collided with the wall attempting to catch the ball — cleared the bases to tie the game.
The Highlanders got one run back in the top of the third on a fielder’s choice, then Indians designated hitter Max Guzman hammered a two-run home run high onto the bleachers in left field.
McLennan’s Josh Breaux squeaked a two-run home run inside the foul pole in left during the top of the fourth, cutting Chipola’s lead to 7-6, but a big fourth inning gave the Indians more padding.
Jacob Silverstein singled through the left side to put Chipola up 9-6 and Rivera followed with a three-run home run.
After 1 1/2 scoreless innings, Rivera launched his second three-run home run for a 15-6 lead, but the Indians couldn’t quite put it away.
Pinch hitter Nick Thornquist drilled the batter’s eye with a leadoff home run in the seventh inning and Breaux added his second home run, scoring his brother, Joe, on the play.
McLennan then added two more runs in the eighth before Caballero ended it early with his grand slam.
Chipola used five pitchers, including a rocky 4 1/3 innings from reliever Ryan Shauger, and Johnson said the pitching has to improve going forward.
“Whoever we get (today), we got to come out and keep playing well,” the coach said. “And we gotta pitch a lot better.”