Quick start fuels Spartanburg’s victory over Cowley County

As he slides into home plate, Spartanburg’s Steve Cochrane finds himself eye to eye with Cowley County catcher Mac Gordon swinging in for the tag during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesdday’s game at Suplizio Field.

Not many baseball teams allow their pitchers to hit, let alone bat leadoff.

Marty Gantt, though, does both for Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College.

Gantt struck out seven batters in five innings Tuesday, allowed six runs, three earned, to lead the Pioneers past Cowley County (Kan.) Community College 10-7 in Game 11 of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field.

Gantt also was 1 for 4 at the plate, scoring two runs for the Pioneers (55-8). He said he likes doing the double duty.

“I just really like leading off, it doesn’t matter where I bat, I still have to get on base and pitch well,” Gantt said.

The Pioneers started fast for Gantt, scoring three runs in the first. Travis Witherspoon hit a two-run home run and Ross Hanna added a solo shot. Witherspoon finished the game 1 for 3 with three RBI and three runs. Hanna had two RBI.

Hanna wanted to be relaxed during his first at-bat.

“Coming into today, I just wanted to relax,” Hanna said. “Staying focused and relaxing at the plate, getting my pitches and not getting myself out.”

The Tigers battled back in the fourth to make it 5-4. In the bottom half of the inning, the Pioneers’ Steve Cochrane hit a two-run single to extend the lead to 8-4. Cochrane went 3 for 4 with three RBI.

In the top of the sixth, the Tigers’ Ronald Melendez hit a two-run home run to cut Spartanburg’s lead to 8-7, seemingly giving the Tigers the momentum. However, Pioneer pitchers Kyle Owings and Patrick Mincey combined to throw four innings, allowing only one run,  to preserve the win.

Along with Melendez, Caleb Bass also had a solid day at the plate for Cowley with two hits and two RBI.

Gantt said the win is a good launching pad for things to come, but there are still some things to work on.

“If we play to the best to our ability and put the ball in play and limit the runs scored we will be alright,” he said.

Pioneers coach Tim Wallace was impressed by his team’s effort against Cowley County compared to Spartanburg’s first game, a 7-1 loss Sunday night to San Jacinto (Texas) College-North.

“We didn’t compete in the first game, which was disappointing and surprising,” Wallace said. “You can say today every time we got a lead and they battled back, and you know, we come in and scratch a run out. I was pleased with the effort.”

Wallace is excited for his team to be playing every day for the rest of the tournament.

“I would rather play every day, we have had way too much time off in Grand Junction already,” Wallace said.

The Pioneers play at 3 p.m. today against the loser of Tuesday’s late game between Santa Fe (Fla.) College and San Jacinto (Texas).


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