Doing just enough to win
Pioneer bats cool off slightly in victory over Neosho
It seemed every ball Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College hit was caught — unless it caught a breeze and flew out.
The Pioneers were limited to seven runs on nine hits — after combining for 36 runs in their first two games in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series — but it was enough. Spartanburg defeated Neosho County (Kan.) Community College 7-4 on Tuesday night at Suplizio Field.
“Anything we hit in the park, they caught. Testament to their outfield,” Spartanburg Methodist coach Tim Wallace said. “Their center field was laying out. The left fielder was laying out. We couldn’t get anybody on to run.
“Luckily we got a couple balls up in the wind to give us a chance. It wasn’t typical for us, but you’ve got to do what the game dictates. We did enough to win.”
Now, the top-ranked Pioneers (48-13) play Central Alabama Community College at 7:30 p.m. today in a matchup of the two remaining teams without a loss in the double-elimination tournament.
The 14th-ranked Panthers (36-26) play Cochise (Ariz.) College at 3 p.m. today in an elimination game.
Both teams took advantage of a cool breeze blowing toward the outfield, hitting a combined five home runs. Neosho hit three solo shots. Spartanburg had two two-run home runs.
Neosho jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Connor Goedert’s home run into the parking lot.
Colton Crocker led off the third inning with a home run over the left-field wall, then Goedert went deep again two batters later for a 4-2 lead.
“You know, I kind of struggled the first game, and I really kind of focused on hitting it the other way and keeping my head on it,” Goedert said. “I was trying to not do too much, and that helped.”
Spartanburg starter Chris Washington settled in, keeping the Panthers off the board the rest of the way with help from the bullpen.
Washington allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks, and he struck out six in 6 1/3 innings. Brandon Landrie limited Neosho to one walk in 1 2/3 innings of relief and got the victory. Cody Mincey struck out two in the ninth for the save.
“I’ve been here enough to know that ball jumps to right center, especially with a little wind,” Wallace said. “I didn’t think (Washington) threw near as well as he could. He’s typically not up like that. They hit some good pitches, but credit to him, he kept battling and gave us a chance.
“Landrie did a great job coming in and getting us out of the eighth. That’s what the pitching is supposed to do when you get a lead.”
Spartanburg’s Collin Steagall hit a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the second inning to tie the game 2-2.
Champ Rowland led off the Spartanburg third with a single and scored on Matt White’s double to the left-center-field gap.
The Pioneers pushed a run across on a sacrifice fly in the fifth to tie the score 4-4.
A Panthers’ defensive error in the seventh extended the inning, and Rowland made them pay with a two-run home run for a 6-4 lead.
“He left one up where I like it,” Rowland said. “I put a good swing on it and got lucky. That’s a great feeling.
“I’ve got a little bit of power, I do it every now and then. I let those guys do it most of the time. I do it when I need to.”
Spartanburg added one run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly for a 7-4 lead.
“Oh, it cost us a ton,” Neosho coach Steve Murry said. “We made mistakes all night long. We didn’t play very well at all. We had a big error out in the field, and we made multiple base-running mistakes. You know, we outhit them, just too many mistakes all around. You can’t do that and expect to win.”
Neosho also made some great defensive plays, with several diving catches that took away extra bases for the Pioneers.
Neosho leftfielder Colby Smith took away an extra-base hit from Steagall with a diving catch near the foul line in the bottom of the seventh.