Pick a base
Reliever's clutch play saves game for Reivers
Brayden Young latched onto the line drive, then needed a second to figure out what to do.
The freshman relief pitcher finally looked toward first base, saw the runner who had gotten halfway to second base was late in breaking back to the bag, and threw him out to end the first game Saturday in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
It was an unconventional double play, one Iowa Western Community College baseball coach Marc Rardin acknowledged was a little lucky, that sealed a 6-5 victory over Columbia State Community College (Tennessee) and got the Reivers through a round that hasn’t always been so lucky for them.
Rardin said Iowa Western has “struggled some” in winning its first-round game in the eight times he’s guided the Reivers to the World Series, dating back to 2005.
Getting lucky was possible because Young kept his cool under considerable pressure as Iowa Western made two errors to put the first two Chargers on base in the ninth. Then, Ronnie Jebavy put down a beautiful bunt that got through the infield and loaded the bases with no outs.
Columbia State then sent left-handed freshman Isaiah Aluko to pinch hit for right-handed cleanup hitter Sam Few, who had two hits in the game. Aluko, who was second among the Chargers with five home runs, despite starting only 20 of the team’s 56 games, struck out looking.
Rardin said the Reivers were ready for Aluko because assistant coach Rob Allison did a great job with the scouting report.
“That guy’s explosive at the plate,” Rardin said. “He’s kind of all or nothing. We call them ‘long walks/short walks.’ They’re either jogging around the bases, or they’re just walking back to the dugout. We knew where we needed to pitch to stay away from that barrel on that big fella. Brayden did a great job with him.”
With one out, Columbia State’s Desi Ammons fouled off three two-strike pitches before rifling Young’s eighth offering toward the mound for the game-ending double-play.
Rardin laughed after he talked about the time it took Young to finally throw to first base.
“Process of elimination, he went third, second and then to first and almost didn’t get him,” Rardin said.
Rardin also said making a stab at a line drive like that and catching it is a little lucky. Then again, it’s not.
“Brayden Young has actually done that before, where he snags balls up the middle,” Rardin said. “He was a super-state (player) in Nebraska, he was all-super-state shortstop, so it’s not like he isn’t an athlete at all.
“It’s not like that’s something you plan, though.”
The Reivers couldn’t plan what transpired in the top of the ninth, either, but the two runs that gave Iowa Western its first lead in a game it trailed 5-0 after five innings were expected.
“There really was never any doubt,” said Quinn Carpenter, who started the game at pitcher, then moved to designated hitter after getting pulled in the fourth inning. “Our team is very scrappy, in the words we like to use. No matter what we had to do, we were going to come through, whether it was tie it or take the lead.”
The Reivers’ winning rally began with No. 8 batter Kaden Moore getting hit by a pitch. Two outs later, Jordan Schlehuber walked, and No. 3 hitter Dom Thompson-Williams hit a ball that bounded through the middle of the infield to drive in the tying run.
A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, and the Schlehuber scored the game-winner when cleanup hitter Jason McMurray reached safely on a throwing error by the shortstop.
The prevailing mentality among the Reivers was summed up by leadoff hitter Alex Krupa, who hit a two-run home run in Iowa Western’s four-run fifth inning that pulled the Reivers within a run.
“Coach always tells us if we take punches, we have to get up off the canvas and punch back, so that’s what we did,” he said.
Chargers coach Mike Corn said, “It’s just baseball,” referring to Iowa Western’s ability to rally in the top of the ninth, then hold on in the bottom.
“It’s a game of outs, and there is not a time clock, you can’t rush it, you can’t end it early,” Corn said. “We still needed to get a big hit there. ... It just didn’t happen for us. It’s a tough way to lose, but any way — 10-0, 1-0, 6-5 — when you’re on this stage, it’s hard.”