ON THE REBOUND
Chargers shake off loss to stay in GJ
A rebound run. A rebound inning. A rebound game.
Columbia State Community College (Tennessee) got them all Sunday as they bounced back from Day 1 disappointment in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The Chargers (45-12) used a nine-run second inning to take control and beat Johnson County Community College (Kansas) 12-2 in an elimination game shortened to five innings by the run rule.
Keeping the championship dream alive began with an attitude summed up succinctly by Columbia State sophomore outfielder Josh Wilson, who reached base three times and scored each time: “We didn’t want to go home. We weren’t going to go home.”
Freshman first baseman Paul Kirby, who went 3 for 3 and drove in a run on each at-bat, added, “Our approach today was win every pitch, win every inning. We did that, so we came out on top today.”
Johnson County (50-14) struck first, though, when catcher John Fairchild hit a two-run home run just inside the left-field foul pole with two outs in the top of the second inning.
Then, it was up to the Chargers to respond, and it began with cleanup hitter Sam Few belting an opposite-field home run to right field to lead off the bottom of the inning.
That was the game’s last long ball, but just the start of a long inning in which the Chargers sent 13 batters to the plate. The first out wasn’t made until the ninth batter, and by that time six runs had scored.
“We discuss rebound, rebound runs. … Our ability right there to come back and just get the one (run), much less the big inning, was important,” Columbia State coach Mike Corn said.
It seemed like a never-ending nightmare for the Cavaliers, who allowed the next batter after Few to reach base on an error.
“The tone was kind of set with the leadoff hitter taking the ball out of the yard,” Johnson County coach Kent Shelley said. “Then we come back and don’t make a play, and it kind of just opens the door.
“We have two errors in that inning, uncharacteristic of our club all year long. It’s just been an outstanding defensive club. We don’t take care of the baseball, and you just can’t do that. … Once it got snowballing, we just weren’t able to get it under control like I had hoped.”
Cavaliers starting pitcher Connor Miller didn’t get out of the second inning, marking the second straight day Johnson County’s starting pitcher got chased early.
“Probably for me the most disappointing thing of the tournament was our starting pitching,” Shelley said. “It’s been so key for us all year. They’ve pitched so well and gotten so deep. For us to send our best two guys out there and have to go get one in the third and the other one today in the second, that’s certainly disappointing.”
Meanwhile, Corn said Chargers starting pitcher Tyler Stewart wasn’t sharp, but, “He just did exactly what we needed him to do.”
The most impressive thing the left-handed sophomore did was keep his cool after Fairchild’s home run. Stewart retired the next batter on a line-out to the second baseman, ending the inning, and he blanked the Cavaliers the rest of the way.
“He was stoic after giving up that home run,” Corn said. “It didn’t rattle him. He went right back after the next hitter.”
Columbia State ended the game with three runs in the bottom of the fifth, which Wilson and Kirby, the Nos. 6 and 7 hitters, opened with back-to-back doubles.
The bottom half of the Chargers’ lineup was particularly productive, but Corn said that’s business as usual.
“We have some guys that are very, very capable top to bottom,” Corn said.
JUCO WORLD SERIES
COLUMBIA 12, JOHNSON CO. 2
up next: Columbia State vs. Cochise College, noon today, Suplizio Field. Johnson County eliminated.