Hamblin’s grand slam key hit for Howard vs. San Jacinto

Punch. Counter punch.

The two Texas schools in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series slugged it out Wednesday night at Suplizio Field for the right to stay in the winners’ bracket.

Howard College had one more guy on base when the big hit came than San Jacinto College-North did, hanging on for a 12-11 victory.

“I got a good piece of bat on it. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Miles Hamblin said of his sixth-inning grand slam off the scoreboard that ended up being the winning hit. “(Coach) told me to take a deep breath when I go up there. I took a deep breath and that was the result. It was a good result.”

Howard hit line drive after line drive. San Jac hit home run after home run. In fact, the final home run of the game, a two-run shot by San Jac’s Jay Abt in the bottom of the ninth, was the 57th home run of the tournament, one shy of the record. San Jac hit five out the park, giving the Gators 100 for the season, tying the team record set in 2003.

The teams combined for 23 runs on 30 hits in a game that lasted 3 hours, 42 minutes.

“I guess you can say it’s the battle of the state,” Hamblin said. “They’re a good ballclub, a very good ballclub. We knew that coming into this game. We knew we had to put our best effort out there.”

Howard plays Western Nevada at 7:30 tonight, with San Jac fighting to stay in the field at 3 this afternoon against Santa Fe (Fla.) College.

“We were a hit away from doing something big, but it turned into a slugfest at the end and I was hoping it would be a pitching duel,” San Jac coach Tom Arrington said. “We got the lead in the bottom of the fifth and they came back with five runs in the sixth and it was due to the lack of throwing strikes, allowing guys to get on and they got the timely hits when they needed it. The grand slam hurt us.”

The teams didn’t play one another this year — they saved the meeting for the big stage.

“I think it was something the fans enjoyed,” Arrington said. “We went back and forth and it was pretty intense. There were some long balls hit. I have a lot of respect for
Britt Smith and his club and obviously they are worthy of being here.”

San Jac’s pitching, so stellar in the Gators’ first two games, wasn’t sharp against the Hawks. Arrington used three pitchers in the sixth inning alone, trying to hold onto the lead they claimed by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
It didn’t work.

Hamblin’s grand slam off Chris Dickerson, the third pitcher of the inning, gave Howard a 12-9 lead.

Howard seemed to solve its defensive problems — the Hawks committed 11 errors in their first two games — by playing errorless baseball.

“That’s who we’ve been all year,” Smith said. “We’ve pitched it better than that, but a lot of the credit goes to San Jac. They can hit. That’s kind of who we’ve been, we’re averaging 10 runs, 12 runs a game. That’s what it looks like in the error column most of the time.”

Howard starter Anthony Collazo gave up leadoff home runs in each of the first three innings and back-to-back home runs in the third, but also struck out eight batters in four innings before being replaced after giving up one run on a single and a double in the fifth.

Reliever Blake Barnes balked home one run and allowed another when Hawkins singled under the glove of Monk Kreder at first, allowing Danny Hernandez to race around to score from first.

The Gators loaded the bases in the eighth but Gregg Alcazar’s high fly ball was caught on the warning track in left to end that threat. San Jac, though, wasn’t done.

In the ninth, Brad Padia was hit by a pitch and Abt homered to straight-away center field to pull the Gators within one. After Danny Hernandez singled, Howard went to the bullpen, and Hunter Hill got two pop-ups to short and a ground ball to third to save the game.

Howard plays Western Nevada tonight in a rematch of Game 1, a game the Wildcats have been looking forward to since losing 4-3 in 11 innings.

“They’re gonna come out at us like every other team is and we’re gonna come out after them,” Hamblin said. “It’ll be another good ballgame.”


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