Caballero rides off with MVP
2nd baseman the spark for Indians' offense
Jose Caballero launched towering home run after towering home run throughout the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, earning the Preston Walker Most Valuable Player Award on Saturday as he led Chipola College (Florida) to a championship. The Indians defeated San Jacinto College-North (Texas) 15-6.
The second baseman from Panama City, Panama, either led or tied for the tournament lead in home runs (five), RBI (16), and hits (13). He hit .448 with an on-base percentage of .500.
Caballero said he got hot early in the tournament and rode the momentum to the end.
“We just came here to battle because we came through the losers’ bracket,” Caballero said. “We battled and we did it. I’m so proud that I could do a pretty good job for my team, for my coaches. We did what we needed to do.”
Caballero was one of three Chipola players to be among the home run leaders. The Indians launched a tournament-best 21 home runs.
Caballero said he fed off the success of Reynaldo Rivera, Max Guzman and the rest of his power-hitting teammates.
“I feel like I was hitting with them because they’re my teammates, they’re my brothers,” Caballero said. “I feel like they could do it. I’m so proud of all my teammates.”
Chipola coach Jeff Johnson said Caballero had somewhat of a low profile coming into the JUCO World Series, but he’s continued the same strong hitting he has all year.
“He’s just a great baseball player,” Johnson said. “I’ve said in a couple interviews he doesn’t get the credit — Reynaldo and (Andrew) Bechtold get the credit. But he’s probably our best baseball player out here. He understands how to play the game on the bases and he understand what he’s doing at the plate situationally, and he’s got some power, as you saw this week.
“He deserved it. I’m proud of him. He’s been with us two years and just really done a great job.”
On top of his exceptional offensive play, Caballero made key defensive play in the title game that kept momentum on Chipola’s side. The Indians had just regained the lead — a 7-5 advantage on a three-run home run from Te’kwaan Whyte — in the top of the sixth inning and Caballero’s diving stop on a hard grounder up the middle kept San Jacinto’s bats quiet.
Caballero was amped up after the play, high-fiving his teammates, and he said the play helped spark a four-run outburst in the top of the seventh.
“We made four runs after that play and I feel like that play made some energy for us to score the runs we needed,” Caballero said. “We did it, man, we did it.”