Rest for the weary

Panthers earn a day off with win over Chaps

Palm Beach State (Fla.) College’s Jose Lazaro, center, is mobbed by teammates after shutting down Midland (Texas) in the final two innings Tuesday to earn the win in the Panthers’ 7-6, 10-inning victory at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

The Palm Beach State (Fla.) College team hasn’t gotten much sleep.

“We told them before our first game here that if you want to sleep in, you have to win, and after losing the first game, we’ve been getting up at 6 a.m. every day,” Palm Beach State coach Kyle Forbes said.

But for the first time since arriving in Grand Junction, the Panthers earned some rest.

Palm Beach won its second consecutive extra-innings game at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series with a 7-6 win after holding off a furious Midland (Texas) College comeback Tuesday.

The loss eliminated the Chaparrals (48-15) from the tournament.

With the amount of adrenaline needed to survive consecutive extra-inning tilts, it’s a wonder Palm Beach State has slept at all.

“At this point, it’s become something of a running joke for us,” Forbes said. “I won’t lie to you and say that it isn’t nerve-wracking, because it absolutely is. But it’s more of an ‘Oh, this again. Ha ha, very funny.’ “

The Panthers (41-20, 3-1 JUCO) jumped to a 6-1 lead behind a four-run first inning and a one-hit performance from pitcher Mark Babrick through five innings.

After the fifth inning, Midland keyed in on Babrick and chased him. Babrick finished with two strikeouts and three walks during 6 1/3 innings, but he benefited from stellar defense.

Third baseman Dan Hudzina went full-stretch twice to end innings with runners in scoring position.

“The first inning was a little rough, getting used to the mound,” Babrick said. “I knew if I let them put balls out there, that I have complete faith in my defense, and I was rewarded for that.”

It was Babrick’s second start this season. For most of the regular season, he was used in a relief role.

“He was our best option for this game,” Forbes said. “For him to come out there and throw up some zeroes like he did, that really gave us a chance to win the game. I think he did a heck of a job today, and he’s really gotten better as the year has gone on.”

With one out in the sixth, Midland notched two runs. After keeping Palm Beach off the scoreboard, the Chaparrals plated one run in the seventh inning and two in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.

During extras, the Panthers’ Gabe Martinez singled to left-center to start the inning. Matt Mulroy popped out on a bunt attempt, but Mike Stemle was able to put down a bunt single. Marcus Mooney snuck a single past the left side of the infield to score the winning run.

Jose Lazaro shut down Midland in the bottom of the 10th inning and picked up his second win of the tourney in relief. He pitched 4 1/3 innings in Palm Beach State’s 10-inning win the day before.

Midland’s comeback fell just short in the bottom on the ninth. Jeremie Fagnan knocked in two runs with a double to right field, tying the game, but the Chaparrals couldn’t bring home the winning run.

“Yeah, we got a big hit out of Fagnan and tied it up, just couldn’t get one more,” Midland coach David Coleman said. “And then in the 10th we made a pretty good run at it, got a couple of guys on and pretty good spot in the order and just couldn’t get another hit, and that’s the way baseball goes.

“You get on the wrong side of the game like that, playing with your back against the wall, I’m just proud of our guys for battling back and competing the way they did.”

Palm Beach advances to face the winner of Spartanburg Methodist (S.C) and Central Alabama Community College.


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