Cochise rocks Neosho in rematch at JUCO
With one out in the first inning during a rematch against Neosho County (Kan.), Cochise (Ariz.) College already had topped the combined run total of the Apaches’ 2-1 opening round loss to the Panthers.
By the end of the inning, Cochise had tallied seven runs and surpassed its total run count, four, from its first two games at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
By the end of the game, Cochise more than quadrupled its JUCO run total in a 16-1 win in five innings to become one of the final four teams in the tournament. Cochise (51-18, 2-1 JUCO) scored multiple times in all but one inning during its first double-digit win of the postseason.
“I have no idea why these games happen when they do, to tell you the truth,” Cochise coach Todd Inglehart said. “We scored 10 runs one inning during the regional championship, and it was just out of nowhere. Today, we were patient, and their guys had some trouble throwing strikes, and we really took advantage of it.
“You know, we’ve been getting some pitchers in this tournament that we haven’t done much with. Today we were able to capitalize and able to get balls up. Our deal is really getting guys on base. We’re not a physical club like some of these teams here, but today we looked like one.”
The Apaches totaled 11 hits and drew 10 walks.
Once runners were on base, they were knocked in primarily by singles. Tagg Duce went 2 for 3 with two RBI and two walks. Jake Luna went 1 for 1 with a home run, three walks, three RBI and four runs.
Luna homered during his first at-bat at JUCO after missing most of the postseason with a sprained wrist.
“I hacked at the first pitch and just felt really long in my swing,” Luna said. “So I shortened up on the next pitch and it just felt perfect. It was a fastball middle-in, and I was able to get back spin on it. It was so cool to be able to do that here. I’ve been itching for the last couple days to get back in now.”
Inglehart said Luna’s home run is one of his favorite highlights of the tournament.
“Man, that’s what this is all about,” Inglehart said. “A guy gets an opportunity. He’s been sitting on his hands for two games, and really longer than that. He was a guy that was playing every game for us during the year, and at different points kind of hit himself out of the lineup.
“He got an opportunity today, coming back from an injury, and he got it done. I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for all of us, really. We hit something more than a single.”
Despite being overshadowed by an offensive explosion, Jacob Potts threw a complete game for Cochise. He spread four hits over five innings, surrendering one run on a solo home run by Matt Milner in the bottom of the fifth inning. Potts finished with two strikeouts and two walks.
“One bad pitch call there in the fifth inning with the changeup,” Inglehart said. “But I’ll tell you what, it was really important that he really went out there strong in the bottom of the first. Sometimes you lose focus if you have seven runs like we did. But he went out there, and when I saw him throwing his fastball downhill, just crisp like that, I knew we were in pretty good hands.
“It was nice to see us tack on for him. Usually we kind of sit there after a big inning like that.”
Pitching depth has aided the Apaches this season. Inglehart said his team is five or six starters deep, and he’s comfortable putting any of them on the mound.
Potts said the competition has helped make everyone better.
“You know, coming in, you have all the guys competing for four or five spots, and everyone brings it,” Potts said. “It’s made me a better pitcher, and I think it’s something that helps us in this tournament. I have faith in whoever is on the mound.”
Neosho (36-27, 1-2 JUCO) was eliminated from the tourney with the loss. The Panthers used six pitchers, and only Jeremy Mansur lasted more than an inning.
“We weren’t supposed to be here, so we were playing with house money from the get-go,” Neosho coach Steve Murry said. “It just is a credit to those kids for working so hard. Unfortunately in this game, our youngness came out. And it didn’t work out, but like I told them, it doesn’t matter if we lost one to nothing or 16 to 1, we’re still going home. And the only one that’s going to leave here happy is the national champion.
“No excuses, we didn’t pitch it well. You put 13 on base for free and then give up 11 hits on top of that, you’re not going to be very successful.”
Cochise plays another elimination game today against Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College at 3 p.m.
“Each game is different, and you know, we’re probably not going to score 16 runs again,” Inglehart said. “For us it just really depends on what someone else is going to throw out there.”