Gators survive

San Jac holds off final Shelton State rally to earn rematch with Gordon

San Jacinto (Texas) College-North right fielder Justin Byrd, 4, is congratulated Thursday by his teammates after hitting a grand slam in a six-run second inning in the Gators’ 7-6 victory over Shelton State at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series

Shelton State (Ala.) Community College’s Terrance Dedrick had the key hit Thursday as the Buccaneers tried to rally, a two-run triple in the seventh inning. Shelton State’s comeback fell short in a 7-6 loss to San Jacinto (Texas) College-North.

Two outs, bases-loaded, full count on the No. 5 batter, his team ahead by one run.

Make a good pitch, win the game. Make a poor pitch, possibly lose it.

And San Jacinto (Texas) College-North relief pitcher A.J. Glasshoff was? Relaxed.

“If you show nerves in those kinds of situations, you can’t really rely on anything,” he said Thursday. “I was trying to stay relaxed, not too nervous.”

Glasshoff went to his go-to pitch, the same fastball he fed Shelton State (Ala.) Community College’s Austin Kilbourne five times to run the count full. Pitch 6 drew a mighty cut from Kilbourne, but no contact. Strikeout. Game over.

Glasshoff did what he was supposed to do in the most pressure-packed moment of his career, and the Gators stayed alive in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series with a 7-6 victory that eliminated Shelton State.

A one-out double by Buccaneers leadoff hitter Jake Vickerson started a final rally, and Glasshoff walked Lance Wilson after working the count full. After a groundout moved the runners over, Shelton State cleanup hitter J.C. Wilhite was walked intentionally to load the bases.

“It’s a tough call,” Gators coach Tom Arrington said of the intentional walk. “We decided, let’s do it; here’s a guy who’s a strike thrower, we felt we would be more successful with the final batter than the previous one. It just worked out for us.”

And Glasshoff rewarded his coach for believing in him. After getting ahead of Kilbourne 0-2, he threw three balls, setting up the final pitch.

“I just had to get that one in,” he said. “I had to stay relaxed in order to do that. As long as I was relaxed I was fine.

“I was hoping it would be a strikeout. I didn’t want it to be anything else.”

Glasshoff earned the save, and that gave freshman Michael Velasquez the win for 6 2/3 innings of mostly stellar work until the Gators committed two errors in the top of the seventh. The Buccaneers capitalized on the miscues for five runs, the most damaging blow a two-out, two-run triple by Terrance Dedrick.

“We could’ve folded ship, but we came back and had every chance to win the game,” Shelton State coach Bobby Sprowl said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more out of this team.

“When it was 6-0, it was almost like we weren’t playing real well. Somehow we regrouped and made a game of it.”

The Buccaneers had themselves to blame for need to come back. Two errors helped spot San Jac a 6-0 lead.

In the second inning, Shelton State committed an error on a sacrifice bunt when the pitcher tried to throw out the lead runner. Then, with the bases loaded, San Jac’s No. 9 hitter, Tyler West, grounded to the shortstop on what looked like a routine 6-4-3 double play. Instead, the throw to second sailed wide of the second baseman. Two batters later, with the bases reloaded, No. 2 hitter Justin Byrd hit a 0-1 fastball over the center-field fence. The grand slam capped the six-run outburst.

“I finally turned on one,” Byrd said, adding he was looking for a pitch to drive. “They botched that double play. You know, I’m coming up with the bases loaded, one out, and I’m looking just to make them pay for that. Once you get a mistake by the other team, you’ve really got to do something with it.”

Byrd didn’t know it was going out of the park, but he knew it would be close, at the very least a sacrifice fly if it was caught.

Being among the final three teams is a familiar place for San Jac at the World Series, but the Gators (39-24) put themselves in a precarious spot with a 9-7 loss to Gordon (Ga.) College the night before.

“We’ve had so many ups and downs as a team this year. Last night was tough,” Byrd said. “I felt we should have won that ball game, had quite a few mistakes, had a few mistakes late here today, too.

“But we fight. We fought all year long. We fought through the regional, and we’re just going into tomorrow … looking to get after it.”

The Gators get a rematch with Gordon (39-24) at 7 tonight with a berth in the final against top-ranked Iowa Western (61-6) in the balance.


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