No. 1 vs. No. 2 once again
Chatt Valley's win over San Jac sets up rematch for right to play for crown
A football analogy was the best way Adam Thomas felt his Chattahoochee Valley Community College (Alabama) baseball team could be successful against San Jacinto College-North (Texas) on Thursday night.
“I told them we need to keep scoring touchdowns,” Thomas said after the Pirates defeated the Gators 13-3 in a seven-inning run-rule game at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. “That’s exactly what I told our team. Touchdowns. I mean, (San Jacinto is) good. They’re probably the best team out here.”
The top-ranked Pirates (52-11, 3-1 JUCO) only needed the equivalent of a field goal to keep its distance from the second-ranked Gators (51-11, 3-1), who had rallied from a 7-0 first-inning deficit against Cowley College on Sunday. When San Jac pulled within 7-3 with a three-run inning, the Pirates responded with three runs of their own and shut down the Gators’ lineup for the rest of the game.
That came thanks to Chase Burks, who went the distance and picked up his second win of the tournament. He allowed seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts. For the tournament, the sophomore has allowed four earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
Burks’ pitching and a 15-hit performance from Chatt Valley’s lineup forced a rematch tonight at 7 between the two teams at Suplizio Field. The winner moves into Saturday’s championship game against Yavapai College (Arizona), a 7-3 winner against Iowa Western Community College earlier Thursday.
“These players are very resilient,” said San Jac coach Tom Arrington, whose team has rallied for each of its three JUCO victories. “They’re giving everything they have. Everyone out there is doing their best to go out and win a championship. I expect us to do that as well.”
Will Campbell finished 3 for 5 with four RBI and Nolan Greckel added a 3-for-3 performance for the Pirates.
Chatt Valley’s bats got going in the second inning.
After Carson Hughes and AJ Willoughby were retired, JT Thomas reached on an infield single. He was the first of seven consecutive batters to reach safely, with Campbell hitting a three-run home run to left field to cap the Pirates’ seven-run inning.
“We’re a big-inning offense,” Campbell said. “Once we get it going, even with two outs, we know that we’re just two or three hits away from putting up three or four runs. We know that we can’t stop and we have to keep hitting.”
The Gators responded in the bottom of the third, scoring three runs capped by a two-run double by Caden Williams. Chatt Valley answered in the top of the fourth by bumping the lead back up to seven, with Thomas’ run-scoring single chasing San Jac reliever Hunter McClellan.
“That’s difficult,” Arrington said. “When you put up the runs, you don’t want to give them up, too. So here we’re playing a see-saw game.”
A two-run home run by Willoughby in the sixth inning increased Chatt Valley’s lead to nine. In the seventh, Jayson Cook pushed the lead to 10 when Tim Kennedy’s ground ball to second was deep enough to allow Cook to score on a hit and run.
The Gators had a chance to cut into the Pirates’ lead earlier in the game. In the fourth inning, John Grimsley singled with two outs and Brandon Montgomery was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ryan January, who had hit a tournament-best four home runs coming into Thursday night’s game. Burks struck out January to end the threat, and pumped his fist in excitement as his teammates mobbed him by the dugout to congratulate him.
“There’s probably 1,000 other guys who have better stuff than Burks does,” Thomas said. “But there’s probably not a pitcher, player, or just a baseball player in general who has more heart or more guts.”