Chipola seeks 2nd JUCO crown, San Jacinto its 6th in title tilt

Chipola’s Trey Dawson blocks the bag before he tags out San Jacinto’s Tristan Metten on a stolen base attempt Friday night. The Indians and Gators will battle again Saturday night to see who will win the JUCO title.

Today’s championship game will either be another milestone victory for Chipola College (Florida), or the first Alpine Bank Junior College World Series championship win in six tries for San Jacinto College-North coach Tom Arrington.

The Indians cruised to a 7-1 victory Friday behind the stellar pitching of Evan Steele, forcing a winner-take-all game at 7:05 p.m. at Suplizio Field.

Chipola already won the 50th annual JUCO World Series, now they have a shot at the 60th.

Indians coach Jeff Johnson said their ace gave them another game where anything can happen.

“You have two special teams playing here right now,” Johnson said. “The baseball being played here right now is as good as any (NCAA) Division I baseball. A lot of people will find that out next week when the draft happens — how good of talented players we have playing right now.”

The Indians have been the best offensive team at this year’s tournament, clubbing 19 home runs and hitting .380.

Johnson said the hot hitting will have to continue today for the Indians to have a chance.

“We gave some outs away (Friday), but good pitching does that at times,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem getting them ready to go (today). The biggest thing for us is to get home, get some rest tonight, get them hydrated up. We had some cramping going on here and there, so we gotta make sure we get hydrated.”

The coach said Bowden Francis will likely get the start for the Indians and said he’s confident that the bullpen — after Steele worked into the ninth inning — is rested and prepared for the championship.

“Bowden’s been one of our main guys all year,” Johnson said. “That’s probably what we’ll do. I feel good about three or four of our guys out of the bullpen right now and it’s a one-game season right now. It’s about who’s hot and who’s playing well and going with those guys.”

For Arrington, it’s a chance to obtain an elusive title. Arrington has appeared in six championship games, including the past two years, but has yet to win one with the Gators.

Arrington said San Jac, which will try to win its sixth JUCO title, has been an extremely calm team all season and today’s game is no different.

The coach added that he rested a handful of players, leaving him with fresh legs in the lineup and fresh arms in the bullpen, adding that he changed up the order of players he pulled from the bullpen in order to conserve the best for tonight.

“We’ve rested guys, we went backwards on some of our arms,” Arrington said. “I’m not sure we would have won it today with those guys in there, so we’ve rested some of our guys and we’ve got a good bullpen in there.”

After facing Chipola’s ace, San Jacinto touched up reliever Robbie Knox in the ninth inning, and Arrington said his team could have more success against a pitcher who isn’t as overpowering as Steele, ranked No. 69 in Baseball America’s college prospect rankings and a likely early round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

“We felt once they brought out Steele and went to their right-hander, then we started barreling up some balls,” Arrington said.


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