Mighty Spartanburg strikes again
Hits keep on coming in rout of Connors State
Tim Wallace can’t explain it.
The Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College baseball coach has no idea why the Pioneers are putting up numbers the way they have in their first two games of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“You can check our scores. We have not done this all year,” he said Monday after top-ranked Spartanburg thumped No. 3 Connors State (Okla.) College 17-0 to advance in the winners’ bracket. “We’ve really gotten going the last five, six weeks. We’ve gotten aggressive, and it’s really paying off.
“If you would have told me at this time last week that we’d show up and score 19 and 17 runs in the World Series, I’d have bet my life savings and lost it. I’m not discounting my guys; I love my guys, and I love the way they play, but you just hit streaks and it steamrolls. It’s fun to watch.”
Not many saw a run-rule game coming, not against Connors State, the top hitting (.355 team average) and home-run producing team (58) entering JUCO. The Cowboys, who play Cochise (Ariz.) College at 11 this morning in a elimination game, just ran into a team that is seeing beach balls at the plate.
“I don’t know, we’re just seeing it well,” said Reid Moman, who went 3 for 4, scored three runs and drove in three on a bases-loaded triple in the third inning. “They’re throwing it in there, and we’re putting good swings on the ball.”
They put good swings on the ball starting in the first inning, when six consecutive base hits went to left field (four singles, two doubles) and a two-out infield single went to short, to produce a 6-0 lead.
Taking extra bases, mixing in a stolen base and constantly putting pressure on the defense has paid off for Spartanburg ever since Wallace turned them loose midway through the season.
“I throw BP and fill out the lineup,” Wallace said. “Most of the guys have the green light to run. I’m just trying to keep my left arm loose so I can send them to the plate. I can’t explain it, I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m not going to complain about it.”
The Pioneers were scoring 6.9 runs per game entering JUCO. They’ve more than doubled that in their two World Series games, at 18 runs a game. They’ve won 16 in a row and are undefeated on a neutral field, 11-0. And they’re 14-0 when they score 10 or more runs.
Connors State (53-10) started out hitting Jimmy Lindberg, getting a pair of base hits up the middle in the first inning, but a strikeout and fly ball behind second base got him out of that inning.
He walked a couple of guys in the second, but a double play ended that, and another double play in the third kept him out of any trouble. He allowed one hit in the fifth, struck out three and threw only 72 pitches.
“The offense put up a six-spot in the first inning, and I knew after that I could attack and be aggressive. The offense helped me out a lot today,” Lindberg said. “The scouting report was that they hit real well. I knew I was going to have to come out and keep the ball down and battle. That’s what I did, but like I said, the offense helped me out.”
Connors State starter Josh Hammill, like Lindberg, a left-hander who doesn’t overpower hitters but keeps them off-balance, didn’t make it out of the first inning, leaving after those six straight left-field hits.
It didn’t seem to matter who was throwing, the Pioneers just kept hitting to all fields.
“Last year we had a bunch of power hitters, and this year we can hit to all fields,” Moman said. “We won’t hit a lot of home runs. We didn’t hit a home run today, and we put up 17 runs. It’s not about home runs, it’s about hits.”
Only shortstop Champ Rowland failed to get at least one hit for Spartanburg, and every player scored at least one run.
John Leopard went 3 for 3 and drove in five runs.
“Oh, man it was a blast. We’re putting football scores up there,” Leopard said. “It’s crazy. Our confidence is way up right now. We’re just having fun out there.
“I was just trying to be aggressive. You have those at-bats where you feel like you can hit anything; it feels awesome.”