Gators snap their way past Eagles
It started with a runner avoiding a tag at first base, running past the bag in fair territory, then dashing into foul territory and being chased by the first baseman.
Then there was the base runner who was hit in the foot by a batted ball, which then shot straight up into the air.
And let’s not forget the snap throw to first that instead hit the batter in the helmet, with the catcher snagging the ball on the carom right back to him.
Yes, Saturday night’s highly anticipated feature game of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series between No. 2 Dyersburg State Community College (Tennessee) and No. 8 San Jacinto College-North (Texas) had a little bit of everything.
In the end, San Jacinto had the one big inning, putting up six runs in the seventh inning to pull away for a 12-4 victory.
“Early on in a World Series game when you’re kind of expected to do things, everyone was a little anxious,” San Jacinto coach Tom Arrington said. “I don’t think we were as good early on, but MacGregor Hines was fantastic, striking out three batters in the top of the first and after that, he set a tempo for us, which was great.”
Back-to-back doubles by Ryan Johnson and Sergio Macias, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the order were part of that big seventh in which the Gators (44-16, 1-0 JUCO) sent 11 men to the plate.
Mario Moralez, who was involved in the play at first base in the third inning, singled home a run, his fourth hit of the game, but his legs cramped as he hobbled to first. Pinch-runner Jesse Ray Garcia scored on Ryan Johnson’s two-run single.
“Coach has been running us pretty hard,” Moralez said with a grin.
By the time the Eagles, who walked 11 batters, got out of the inning, San Jacinto was up 11-4 and only needed one more run to end the game on the run rule.
The Gators got it on the final walk of the game, with the bases loaded in the eighth.
“When you go out and walk (11) people, you’re not going to beat a Little League team,” Dyersburg State coach Robert White said. “Bottom line is, we didn’t throw strikes and we gave them opportunities to score. We came out and have a 4-1 lead and come back and give up for runs. It’s unacceptable.”
What turned into a rout actually began as a pitchers’ duel between San Jacinto’s Hines and Dyersburg’s Seth Hougesen.
Hines, a freshman, struck out the side in first inning and retired the first seven batters before John Ham’s first-base roundabout in the third inning.
He bunted toward third, and the throw pulled Moralez off the bag as he tried to tag the runner. Ham’s momentum carried him past the bag in fair territory, then realizing he could be tagged out, ran into foul territory, skirting first-base umpire Sacha Sanguinetti as Moralez gave chase.
Sanguinetti called Ham out, bringing White out of the dugout. After conferring, they reversed the call, which brought Arrington out for an explanation.
That was the only hit Hines allowed through four innings, until Jared Schmidt singled in the fifth. With one out and runners at second and third, catcher Bentley Jones ripped a three-run home run into the left-field bleachers, putting the Eagles (48-8, 0-1) up 3-1. LaDarius Williams singled in another run in the inning for a 4-1 lead, but San Jacinto responded.
Luke Watson, who was struck in the foot by a batted ball to end the third inning, doubled in one run, then took third and scored on a pair of wild pitches. Moralez hit a two-run home run with two out and the Gators were firmly in charge.
“Mario had a fantastic game,” Arrington said. “The home run got us back.”