Reivers rock: Hartle’s leadoff home run sparks Iowa Western’s victory
Ivan Hartle is a little go-getter.
He goes and gets the ball, whether he’s in the field or at the plate.
Friday night, Hartle hit his third leadoff home run of the week for Iowa Western Community College, a towering shot into the left-field bleachers. The sophomore second baseman triggered a four-run start for the Reviers in a 10-4 victory over top-ranked San Jacinto (Texas) College-North and force a second title game tonight in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“I don’t remember hitting a leadoff home run in my life and I’ve got three here,” Hartle said. “That’s the way it is, I guess. Maybe it’s that Colorado air.”
Iowa Western, ranked fifth in the nation, upended the Gators in front of 10,031 fans, who started lining up at the gate at Suplizio Field in the middle of the afternoon.
Hartle, who twice has hit the second pitch he saw for home runs, waited one more pitch Friday night before sending one into the bleachers.
“That’s the third leadoff he’s had,” Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin said. “You don’t see that very often, but you know what they say, just keep watching baseball, you’ll see everything eventually.”
Catcher Anthony Bemboom hit a three-run shot over the center-field fence five batters later.
San Jacinto center fielder Jarrett Higgins made a valiant effort to bring the ball back in, leaping against the wall, but couldn’t make the catch. In the process, he lost his glove, which was retrieved by a television cameramen positioned above the center-field fence.
The loss was the first of the tournament for the Gators, who have been to more JUCO World Series (21) and won more titles (five) than any other school in the NJCAA. San Jacinto, though, hasn’t won the big prize since 1990.
“They came out here and flat-out beat us,” San Jacinto coach Tom Arrington said. “Take away the first two innings and we’ve got a tight ballgame. Now it’s down to one game, we’ll slug it out and see what happens.”
Iowa Western won the way it’s won all season and all week, with its hitting.
“It’s awesome,” Iowa Western starting pitcher Jordan Kistler said of going to the mound with a 4-0 lead. “They’ve been doing it all year. I’ve pitched with it all year. I don’t think I’ve pitched one game where I’ve been behind. I try to go out and do what I do best, get in and get out and let the offense explode.”
Kistler, who had thrown only two-thirds of an inning this week in relief after being the regional pitcher of the year this season, got his chance to start in a big game and was ready. He went seven innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and struck out five, including the final man he faced after feeling a pop in his right elbow.
“Five pitches before the end of the seventh inning,” he said. “A split-finger. It didn’t feel too good. I already tore it once, my senior year of high school. Hopefully’s scar tissue or muscle cramps.”
Rardin had told him to be patient, that he’d get his chance.
“He’s been in my room asking, ‘Is it coming?’ I told him ‘Watch what you wish for, because all of a sudden you’re going to get thrown in there,’ and he was and he handled it really well,” Rardin said. “We had a game plan and I asked him to give me five or six and I believe he gave me seven. That was awesome by him.”
The Reivers (50-12) led the nation in hitting this year at .398 and carried a .378 tournament batting average into Friday night’s game. They collected a dozen hits against four San Jacinto pitchers.
San Jacinto sent Miguel Peña to the mound on three days’ rest, but he wasn’t as sharp as he was in his first outing Monday, when he struck out 13 batters against Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
“Peña is in the zone, around the zone,” Rardin said. “We knew that. He’s going to throw a lot of pitches around the zone or in the zone, so when you leave the on-deck and go to home plate, you might as well be ready to swing it.”
He lasted only three batters into the second inning after walking Jeff Rawlings and giving up an RBI double to Hartle and a base hit to Brandon Bass.
The Reivers, who have never placed higher than third in the JUCO World Series, scored three runs in the second and added two more in the fourth against reliever Dylan Adamek, who gave way to Hunter Silva with two out in the seventh.
San Jacinto never got anything going against Kistler, scoring two runs in the third on a base hit by Ryan Hornback, but he was caught stealing and Deric Hawkins lined out to short to end the threat.
San Jac’s Larry Rodriguez hit a solo home run to left in the fifth, but Kistler retired eight of the next 10 men he faced.
As for today, Rardin said the plan is the same as it was Friday.
“Try to win,” he said with a grin. “There’s not a lot of secrets to Iowa Western baseball. We’re gonna try to hit some balls in the gap, try to just continue to hit where it’s pitched.”