Riding a High: Gordon (Ga.) stays undefeated with win over San Jac
They figure no one expected them to be here.
Now, the Gordon (Ga.) College Highlanders are the last remaining team without a loss in the double-elimination Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. The Highlanders proved they could hit San Jacinto (Texas) College-North and its pitching in a 9-7 victory on Wednesday night at Suplizio Field.
“We don’t have any pressure,” Gordon staring pitcher Josh Wirsu said. “Everyone expects us to lose, so if we lose, we’re expected to. When we win, they’re shocked.”
Gordon, which is playing in its first JUCO World Series, took that mentality into the game against the vaunted San Jacinto program with 19 appearances and five national titles.
“There was more of a quiet confidence today,” Gordon’s Bobby Woodall said. “The past couple days it’s been more high-energy. Today we were more relaxed. I felt very confident going into the game today.”
The Highlanders (39-23) jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Devin Bonin led off with a home run that nearly hit the scoreboard in right-center field.
“Devin is our spark plug; he always has been,” Gordon coach Travis McClanahan said. “That home run was really, really big. We’re here and we’re here to hit. That matchup for us, I think everybody thought we wouldn’t be able to score against their lefty. Bonin set the tempo right out of the gate.”
Aaron Mizell walked and advanced to third when San Jacinto’s Esteban Gomez attempted to throw him out on a fielder’s choice, and scored on a groundout.
San Jacinto (39-24) pushed a run across in the third, but Gordon came back with six runs in the fourth off San Jacinto left-hander Anthony Banda.
Gordon’s Christian Davila started it with a single and scored on Grant Massey’s single. Bonin and Brian Jacobs followed with singles to load the bases. With two out, Woodall comes through with a double to right-center field for a 5-1 lead.
“Lefty on lefty I tend to struggle there,” Woodall said. “He threw me a fastball that got in on my hands. I flipped it out there. Luckily I had my hands inside. Sometimes you get lucky with it.”
San Jacinto coach Tom Arrington pulled Banda after that but it wasn’t enough to get the Gators out of the inning.
The Highlanders added another run for a 7-1 lead. Banda struck out eight Gordon batters in 3 1/3 innings, but allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits.
Wirsu limited the Gators to one earned run on eight hits in six innings for the victory.
“Josh came out and pitched great,” McClanahan said. “He let us get a feel for the game and let us realize we can play with them.”
San Jacinto had a great opportunity for a big inning in the top of the fifth, but couldn’t come up with a big hit.
The Gators loaded the bases without an out and appeared to squeeze a run across on an ground ball, but the umpires changed home plate umpire Travis Olsen’s safe call to out on the force.
“All year I’ve walked the bases loaded or done something to get in trouble,” Wirsu said. “Early in the season, I had a weak mindset to give up in the inning. Execute a pitch and let the batter get himself out.”
The Gators pushed two runs across on Gomez’s fielder’s choice in the fifth inning. Gordon got out of the inning with a fly ball, holding an 8-3 lead.
The Highlanders came back with a run in the bottom half of the fifth when Aaron Mizell’s blast hit the right-field foul pole for a 9-3 lead.
San Jac got two runs back in the seventh and it started with Tyler West hustling to beat out a ground ball.
Jarred Fancher hit a two-run home run into the left-field bleachers in the eighth to get San Jac within two runs, but that was it.
Gordon’s Andrew Fessler shut down San Jacinto over the final 1 1/3 innings.