Chipola in charge
Indians beat San Jac to win second JUCO World Series championship
Just get to Saturday. Saturday’s our day.
That was the message Chipola College (Florida) coach Jeff Johnson sent to his players on Monday after their first loss in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Just get to Saturday.
Saturday truly was Chipola’s day.
“With an offensive team like this, the longer you go and the deeper you get with pitching and people get tired turning around and you’re seeing the 3-4-5s, it’s going to be to your advantage sooner or later and I think it did for us,” Johnson said. “Then our pitching finally got going a little bit. I can’t say enough … I told my wife today, she asked what I thought and I told her we got off this 17-day layoff and our rhythm is starting to come back. We’re starting to make defensive plays. The first couple of days you wouldn’t have thought we could play good baseball. We’re back to running good angles in the outfield, charging balls, going about it like you’re supposed to.”
The top-ranked Indians (51-9, 6-1 JUCO) won their second Junior College World Series championship in convincing fashion, 15-6 over No. 8 San Jacinto College-North (Texas) at Suplizio Field, tumbling into a gold-jerseyed dogpile in front of the pitcher’s mound after shortstop Trey Dawson caught the final fly ball.
“He really harped on taking a day at a time, an inning at a time, a pitch at a time, not worrying about the next day or what else is going on,” relief pitcher Ryan Shauger said. “Just take it one day at a time and enjoy the moment as much as you can.”
Ten years after winning the school’s first national title in 2007 during the 50th annual event, the Indians claimed their second in the 60th year of JUCO.
“Hey, I don’t know if I’ll be back for 30 years, but I’m glad to get one every decade,” Johnson said.
For the Indians, getting to Saturday also meant getting to the bullpen — both San Jac’s and their own.
It was anybody’s game through five innings as the starters, San Jac’s Kaleb Roper and Chipola’s Bowden Francis, were keeping their teams in the game. The Gators led 5-4 after Brett Wright hit his first home run of the tournament, the 64th of the week, by banging it off the top of the wall under the scoreboard.
That came after Herbert Iser, robbed of a home run Friday night, left no doubt in the second inning, hitting a shot over the scoreboard to break the tournament record of 62, and it appeared to be the Gators’ night.
After Wright’s home run, Johnson went to his bullpen, swapping the right-hander Francis for the left-hander, Shauger.
“The biggest thing on a stage like this is staying calm, remaining calm, and I knew it was going to be my last time playing for this team and my brothers,” Shauger said. “I was going to give them every pitch, it didn’t matter what was going on, I was going to give them everything I had in me because I knew it was going to be my last time.”
The night after lefty Evan Steele shut down San Jac’s hitters, Shauger did the same, retiring nine of the 10 men he faced.
“It’s huge to have a guy like Shauger to come out of the pen and shut them down like that,” said catcher Chris Clayton, who took a pitch in the face in the fifth inning, giving him a bloody nose and a swollen right cheek, but was allowed to stay in the game. “We knew if we kept scoring we would end up on top with Junior Harding at the end of it; you’ve always got a shot with him.”
The only San Jacinto batter to reach base against Shauger, who got the win, was Wright, who walked with two out in the seventh. Shauger then got Sergio Macias to fly out to left, and the Indians could sense the title was within reach.
That’s because they erupted for three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh once the Gators went to their bullpen.
With a pair of runners on and one out, San Jacinto coach Tom Arrington went to his ace reliever, Donny Diaz. On his fourth pitch, Te’kwaan Whyte crushed a three-run home run deep into the parking lot behind the right-field wall for a 7-5 lead.
“It was just something we needed at the time,” Whyte said. “It was a back-and-forth game and we needed to pull away slowly. At the time we were down 5-4. I was taking a lot of pitches during the tournament and I felt like it was time for me to jump on something early.”
Diaz got out of the sixth without any more damage, but the Indians were just getting started.
“They tried to hurry to get Diaz going and I don’t think he’d thrown quite as many pitches (to get warm) and he hung one in there and Tek got a hold of it, thank goodness, and gave us the two-run lead,” Johnson said. “We knew we had Junior in the pen and it made us feel a lot better.”
Jacob Silverstein singled to lead off the seventh and took an extra base when the ball was misplayed in left field. Jose Caballero walked and both moved up on a wild pitch. Reynaldo Rivera singled to right, scoring Silverstein, and Caballero scored when that ball was misplayed.
After a strikeout, Brody Wofford put the game away with another home run to right field, ending the night for Diaz, with Chipola up 11-5.
“Well, we started a little slow, but we picked up at the end,” Max Guzman said. “We all started connecting and getting the extra base was a huge part of that. We’re just doing it for our teammates. We’re just doing it like we have all year.”
And all week. After losing to San Jacinto on Monday, the Indians played every day, winning five straight.
“You win it out of the winners’ bracket and you feel good about that,” Johnson said. “That’s the easy way to win it. When this group comes out of the losers’ bracket and plays six straight days, seven total games, and wins it, it’s special. It shows the character and heart they have. This might be the best group of kids I’ve ever coached, on and off the field.
“It’s going to be hard to lose these guys because we’re going to lose about all of them, but we’ll be happy and proud to be where we are tonight.”
Johnson got a Saturday-night shower from his players, saying it was the “best darn shower of all time. We’ll do that as many times as we can.”
After the hugs and pictures — Johnson posed with the NJCAA national championship trophy with every one of his guys — the Indians took selfies in front of the large C logo on the video board, soaking in their night.
“For me, this is the first time winning something like this,” Clayton said, his puffy cheek unable to mask his grin. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling. To be standing on the last day is a great feeling.”
JUCO WORLD SERIES GAME 19
San Jacinto 6
Chipola wins second JUCO national title