Riding into title game

Roughriders end Iowa Western's even-year title run, advance to championship game

Yavapai’s Brock Ephan slides in to first to beat the throw in the first inning of the Roughriders’ 7-3 victory over Matt Hoeg and Iowa Western in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field.

Yavapai’s Hayden Durkiewicz delivers a pitch Thursday in the Roughriders’ 7-3 victory over Iowa Western. Expected to throw only three or four innings, Durkiewicz pitched 5 2/3, allowing only two runs on five hits with five strikeouts.

Iowa Western’s Devon Perez pitched well in a losing effort for the Reviers, tossing five innings with six strikeouts in Iowa Western’s 7-3 loss to Yavapai at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Mitchell Thompson from Iowa Western beats out an infield hit Thursday in the 3rd inning as Yavapai first baseman Brock Ephan fields the late throw in the Roughriders’ 7-3 victory.

One more win is all Yavapai College (Arizona) needs to be king of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

The Roughriders (48-20, 4-1 JUCO) ran roughshod over Iowa Western Community College on Thursday at Suplizio Field, winning 7-3 to advance to the championship game.

After going 0-2 last year at JUCO, Yavapai was determined to stick around this year.

“Iowa Western is a great program, they beat us about 370 days ago in this same spot,” Yavapai coach Ryan Cougill said.

Thursday’s win over the Reivers came from all phases of the game, starting with timely hitting and ending with solid relief pitching. In between, the Roughriders played outstanding defense.

Cougill said Yavapai came in with a specific pitching plan and it worked to near perfection.

“We had kind of a game plan and that game plan went out the widow when Hayden (Durkiewicz) goes 5 2/3. I was thinking he was going to go three or four,” the coach said with a smile.

Durkiewicz gave up only two runs on five hits, striking out five and walking one.

The freshman was helped out by his offense early on.

Sophomore Nate Easley ripped a fastball to the deepest part the park in center for a two-run triple in the third to put Yavapai up 3-0.

The Reivers (52-15, 2-2 JUCO) cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth when Zach Hanna had a big two-run single and that chased Durkiewicz. Nicko Ortega came in to get Eric Mingus to ground out to third to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Roughriders pushed their lead to 5-2 when Brock Ephan singled followed by a double from Gavin Johns, who had two hits on the day. An Iowa Western error brought Ephan home, then Nikko Delgado’s sacrifice fly scored Johns.

The Reivers had a major scoring chance in the seventh, but the inning got off to a bad start after a 4-6-1 double play. Nick Menken and Jared Gates then got back-to-back hits to put runners on second and third.

Cougill went to Zach Pederson to face Matt Hoeg, who was hitting .545 at JUCO.

On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Pederson got Hoeg, the only batter he faced, to fly out to right to end the threat.

That’s when Cougill turned to Turtle to finish the game.

The seldom-used pitcher, Rashaan Kuhaulua, moved from third to the mound.

In the eighth, he gave up a hit, then got a 6-4-3 double play and a groundout to second for a quick inning,  In the ninth, he got two strikeouts, before giving up a run. He ended the game by getting a groundout to shortstop Ramsey Romano.

Turtle didn’t feel much pressure taking over on the mound, even though he hadn’t pitched since April 26.

“I’m a pitcher at heart, honestly, so it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as people might have thought it would be. There was definitely a lot pressure since it was my first time out in a while,” he said.

Cougill said the plan went exactly the way the Roughriders wanted it to go.

“It was always going to be those four guys to throw for us today,” he said.

The Iowa Western loss snapped a streak that saw the Reivers win the JUCO title in even-number years since 2010.

Coach Marc Rardin said it was an up-and-down tournament for the Reivers that started with an improbable win in the first game of the tournament. A strange two-error play gave the Reivers a 4-3 walk-off victory over Santa Fe College (Florida).

“The good times was one game (an 8-0, five-inning win over Chattahoochee Valley on Monday), and other than that we just never showed up and put it all together, but that’s the game,” he said, adding that his sophomore class ended their junior college careers with a 106-22 record.

Rardin said the Roughriders are playing well and with rhythm, which was similar to what his team did when the Reivers won it all in 2012.

After the Roughriders won their first game Saturday, they had a day off, then played games in four straight days.

“We have a really good rhythm for the game right now, offense, defense, everything, we’re just feeling very confident,” Romano said. “Being able to play everyday has kept us in that rhythm, but at the same time it starts to wear you down a little.”

The Roughriders will be going for their fourth JUCO championship, their first since 1993.


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