Sharks’ bats come alive in victory over Spartanburg
Neither coach saw it coming. Neither could explain it afterward.
The reversal of fortune that Thursday afternoon brought made two of the final four teams at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series unrecognizable from the day before.
And the result on the scoreboard was a head-scratching 13-2 thumping that Miami Dade College (Florida) put on Spartanburg Methodist College (South Carolina) in an elimination game.
Spartanburg (48-18) looked like world-beaters in its previous two elimination games, pounding its opponents 18-3 and 10-2 in games shortened by the run rule.
The Sharks, on the other hand, got blasted Wednesday night 10-0 in five innings.
The Pioneers looked capable of avenging an 8-3 first-round loss to Miami Dade, but the Sharks (38-16) grabbed the momentum early and routed Spartanburg in five innings.
Pioneers coach Tim Wallace had no explanation for the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation of his team.
“If I knew that, I would’ve stopped it,” he said.
The best he could offer was: “We just made some mistakes early. If you make mistakes out here, they can bite you in the fanny. We not only got bit in the fanny, we got kicked in it pretty good.”
Miami Dade coach Danny Price similarly started his explanation of the role reversal with, “I have no idea.”
Then, he added, “I could never have written a script better than what happened today. What happened in front of us, if I could write a book and I could get that all down, I’d be the best coach in the world, and I’d be a multimillionaire from my books.
“But sometimes it just takes a little bit to turn somebody and get the switch going.”
Putting pitcher Robert Evans on the mound, despite starting only two other games this season, and tweaking his lineup slightly, including a start in left field for the first time this season for Jonathan Morales, made a difference.
Evans threw all five innings, and Morales had one hit, scored twice and threw out a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.
Meanwhile, Nick Bateman continued to shine in the absence of center fielder Jose Gomez, who sustained an injury in the first inning of the first-round game. Bateman hit two home runs Thursday, including an inside-the-park home run, his second of the tournament, to lead off the third inning and extend the lead to 7-1.
In the sixth inning he decided to do things the old-fashioned way, hitting the ball out of the park to open the inning, igniting a five-run outburst for the game’s final runs.
“We turned on the switch, I think, a little more today,” said Bateman, who had hit only one home run as a part-time player prior to JUCO. “We focus on the mental mindset a lot here, and I think we just turned it up from that. We knew one shot and out, so we just basically based it off that, and we just had fun out there, just played a good game.”
Price said their contributions were key, and they occurred because each player had the right attitude.
He used Bateman as the perfect example, saying, “You have to be ready when you get those opportunities. He was ready; that’s when he got the first inside-the-park (home run). If he was over there moping because he wasn’t playing, this would never happen.
“Because karma comes around to those people that are ready.”
The Pioneers had opportunities Thursday and squandered them. They left runners on base in scoring position in every inning except the fifth.
Spartanburg was able to get runners on against Evans, but it couldn’t get them home, in part because the Sharks turned double plays in the second and third innings.
“We had opportunities, but we just dug too deep a hole,” Wallace said, “and the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging. We never stopped digging.”