Despite committing six errors, Howard stays in winners’ bracket
The top-ranked team in the country vs. the 2008 national runner-up. Memorial Day night game, fireworks to follow. The best crowd of the weekend, 10,271.
If ever there was a marquee matchup in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, this was it: Howard (Texas) College vs. Shelton State (Ala.) Community College.
Although the play on the field didn’t quite match the expectations, Howard coach Britt Smith will take the victory and move on.
The Hawks used a three-run seventh inning Monday night to defeat Shelton State 7-4 and stay in the upper half of the bracket.
Of the 11 runs scored in the game, only five were earned, thanks to a whopping eight errors.
Howard, which entered the tournament with a .965 fielding percentage, averaging an error a game, made six, giving the Hawks 11 in two games.
“That is the thing I addressed the team after the game, is, this isn’t the way we have played all year,” Smith said. “People up here don’t know any different.”
Every time Shelton State would take the lead, the Hawks would come right back.
It happened in the third inning, when, down 2-0, Howard scored three runs.
And most importantly for Howard, it happened again in the seventh after Shelton rallied to tie the game at 4-4.
With one out, Will Calhoun sliced a double into the left-field corner and B.J. Armstrong reached on the first of back-to-back errors by Shelton shortstop Nick Vickerson.
Runey Davis, the Hawks’ hero in Game 1 with a walk-off home run, tripled home two runs for a 7-4 lead.
Shelton State, last year’s JUCO runner-up, scored one run in the first when Brett Whitaker doubled home John David Smelser, and made it 2-0 in the third when Smelser singled, stole second and scored on Whitaker’s two-out ground ball to second.
The throw to first sailed over Hamblin, and in an attempt to get Smelser at the plate, the throw went behind the third-base dugout for another error.
Yet another errant throw by Howard led to Shelton’s third run. Coy Arrowood walked and Dustin Dunn singled to right.
Armstrong came up throwing — right into the fence along the third-base line. The ball caromed off the top rail, narrowly missing hitting fans, and bounced back onto the field.
Arrowood scored all the way from first.
“The outfield was wet out there,” said Davis, who made a throwing error in the seventh. “I picked up the ball and didn’t think anything of it, but when I released it, it was like, ‘whoa,’ and same for our right fielder, too.”
That was it for Dylan Cacciola, who got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by getting a strikeout and a grounder back to the mound. Designated hitter Calhoun came on and got a fly ball to left, and Dunn was thrown out at third by Joe Leftridge.
Smith isn’t sure what to make of all the errors the Hawks have committed in Grand Junction.
“Twenty percent of our season’s errors have come in two games here and I told the guys it’s not a lack of effort, it’s over-effort,” he said. “We have guys trying to do too much.
“We are throwing it all over the park like a circus. We are lucky to be in this position we are in. We are fortunate to play that bad two games in a row (and win).”