Survival Sunday

Palm Beach State shuts down Kaskaskia to stay alive

Chris Stevens from Kaskaskia College slides in safely on a pickoff play as Palm Beach State first baseman Ryan Church stretches to haul in the throw during the first inning of one of Sunday’s Alpine Bank Junior College World Series elimination games. Church and the Panthers knocked the Blue Devils out of the tournament with a 7-1 win at Suplizio Field. Palm Beach State will next face Navarro today at 10 a.m.

Sunday is about survival at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. For four teams it’s about persevering the day after national title dreams took a nightmarish turn with a first-round loss.

Palm Beach State (Fla.) College had the right man on the mound for the occasion, Ryan Pistey, who threw all nine innings as the Panthers (39-20) eliminated Kaskaskia (Ill.) College with a 7-1 victory.

First, however, Pistey had to survive the first inning and problems of his own making. After retiring the first batter of the game, he hit the next one, then issued a full-count walk and surrendered a run-scoring single on a full count to Kaskaskia cleanup hitter Dennon Koziol. No. 5 hitter Kyle Floyd also worked the count full, then took first base on a walk.

But that was the end of the rally. Pistey induced a popup to the first baseman and struck out the No. 7 hitter.

He didn’t allow another run, scattering nine hits over the next eight innings, as he ran his record to 11-2.

“For him to get out of that first-inning jam was big,” Palm Beach coach Kyle Forbes said. “He has a lot of poise. ... He’s not a guy that blows the ball by people, but he is a very, very tough competitor. He doesn’t get rattled, and he fills up the strike zone, and that’s exactly what he did today, and I’m real proud of his game.”

Pistey said his first-inning woes were a matter of adjusting to a foreign climate, namely the dry air.

“I just had to figure out how to throw the ball in this new atmosphere because we’re from Florida; Colorado’s a totally different thing,” he said. “I had to blow on my hand to get that moisture that we’re used to down there in the humidity and everything. Once I figured out how to do that, it was golden.”

He struck out three batters, meaning the Blue Devils (39-12) were putting the ball in play, but most of the time it was ground balls, often to the right side, where second baseman Brett Lashley had a busy day with 10 assists and two putouts.

“The ball I throw, two seams, it goes right into their hands, so they get jammed and punch it that way,” Pistey said.

Forbes added Pistey throws a sinker and keeps his other off-speed pitches low, leading to ground balls.

Not every ball got fielded, as Kaskaskia delivered a hit in every inning but one, and twice they got two hits in an inning. One of those times, though, the second hit led to the third out. In the sixth inning, the Blue Devils’ Daniel Valdez singled up the middle, but Panthers’ center fielder Mike Stemle threw out Josh Galvan at home when Galvan tried to scored from second base.

An inning later, Palm Beach left fielder Matt Mulroy threw out a runner trying to go from first to third on a single to left.

“The throws from our outfielders ... those were big momentum changers,” Forbes said. “If that guy scores, or if that guy makes it safely to third, those were big plays in the game. They were excellent throws by our outfielders.”

They loomed larger when the score was still 4-1 halfway through the eighth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, though, the Panthers gave Pistey a comfortable cushion.

No. 3 hitter J.D. Underwood lined a one-out, solo home run over the right-field wall for the only extra-base hit of the game. A walk and two singles followed, including Dan Hudzina’s two-run single to conclude the scoring.

Hudzina finished with three hits, as did teammate Marcus Mooney. Underwood had three hits and drove in four runs.

“I think after yesterday we all came out here with a different mentality,” Underwood said. “It’s win or go home. None of us want to go two and out here, when it’s the greatest experience we’ve all had. To come out here and get a big win was huge.”

Now, the Panthers want to do it again, realizing there’s no room for error.

“Every game is elimination, it’s big, but I think this one was the biggest because it was the first one after the loss,” Lashley said. “We’ve got to keep it rolling. We’ve got another game at 10 a.m. (today against Navarro), and we’ve got two more to win before we get a day off, so this one was big.”


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