Cacciola’s pitching performance helps Howard capture crown
Dylan Cacciola has been solid all year for Howard (Texas) College.
Why should a clinching game in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series be any different?
Cacciola pitched eight innings, allowing three runs on nine hits during Howard’s 7-4, 10-inning championship win over Santa Fe (Fla.) College.
“I wanted to focus on not doing too much,” Cacciola said. “I was just trying to give my team a chance to win, so I stayed calm and battled.”
The pitcher from Washington Township, N.J. kept a Santa Fe team that had scored 54 runs in its four wins to only three runs. Cacciola, making his second appearance in the tournament, struck out five Saints batters and walked only one.
Despite the importance of the game, Cacciola was up to the challenge.
“I never pitched on a bigger stage,” Cacciola said. “I found out that I can battle no matter the situation.”
Cacciola allowed the three runs in the first three innings, but settled down after with five shutout innings.
“I think I did pretty well,” Cacciola said. “I could have done better, but it’s a win and we’re national champs.”
Cacciola was replaced in the bottom of the ninth by Hunter Hill, who pitched the Hawks to within two outs of the championship, before coach Britt Smith brought in Will Calhoun to close the game.
Unfortunately for Calhoun, the first batter he had to face was Santa Fe’s Keon Broxton who had a tournament-leading 11 RBI entering the game. Broxton doubled off Calhoun to bring one run across and nearly ended the game, but Tyler Cook was thrown out at home.
After Howard scored three runs in the 10th, Calhoun had another opportunity to close the game for the Hawks.
Calhoun allowed runners to reach first and third base, but got Jardian Thomas to fly out to center fielder Runey Davis to end the game.
“It’s been the same all year,” Calhoun said. “Every time we have had a close game,
Coach has always called on me. I pride myself on being able to finish out a game when we need it.”
Calhoun earned the win, his second of the tournament.
“Will has come out of the pen all year to do a great job,” Howard all tournament pitcher Zach Neal said. “Everyone has all the confidence in Dylan, and we counted on him to get us to Will.”
Howard’s pitching saved the Hawks throughout the tournament, whether it was the opening game against Western Nevada when Howard kept the Wildcats to three runs, or Wednesday night against San Jacinto when Calhoun shut the Gators down in the ninth inning.
For a team that entered the tournament with a 3.14 ERA, Neal said the Hawks’ performance on the mound was nothing new.
“Pitching picked us up in the tournament,” Neal said. “We have shut teams down, and that is how we have done things all year.”