WORTH THE WAIT
Pirates rally in 'beautiful ugly' game
Games are never won in the first inning.
After falling behind 5-0 in the first, Chattahoochee Valley (Alabama) Community College battled back to beat Yavapai (Arizona) College 9-8 in the final first-round game of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series on Sunday at Suplizio Field.
“That was the most beautiful ugly game I’ve ever seen,” Pirates coach Adam Thomas said with a chuckle. “That was awesome. It was fun, and that’s what we want. At the end of the day, we want more R’s on the board than the other team.”
Chattahoochee Valley chipped away at the Roughriders’ lead with a three-run second inning and a single run in the fourth.
But the big inning came in the seventh when Tyler Lynn launched a solo home run, and Will Campbell knocked in two runs with a double to tie the game 8-8. When Hunter Webb’s sacrifice fly brought home Brandon Whiteford, the comeback was complete.
Lynn, a sophomore who played in last year’s JUCO World Series, said this year’s team never panics.
“We’ve done it all year, we did it in the state tournament, and we did it tonight, and I’m just really proud of the guys for battling,” Lynn said.
The Roughriders upped their lead to 8-4 after a third-inning home run by Alexis Cruz and a run by Willie Calhoun in the fourth. But that’s when Chase Burks took over for the Pirates out of the bullpen.
The big right-hander shut down Yavapai for the next four innings, including striking out the side in the eighth.
“He’s a horse out there. He just pounds the strike zone,” Thomas said. “He not overpowering, but he’s a competitor. He’s the guy you want out there when your season is on the line.”
Burks also picked off Alexis Olmeda at second base in the seventh. Then, later in the inning, he snuffed out a run with a play at the plate.
When a pitch skipped away from catcher Jake Maziar, Burks hustled to the plate and snagged the throw from Maziar at the plate right when Brock Hartley was sliding into home.
Burks said he crossed up his catcher with a curveball when Maziar was expecting a fastball.
Lynn said the home run and Burks’ play at the plate was a major swing in the game.
“That was a huge momentum change, that (home run), and Chase’s play got everything started,” Lynn said.
Burks finished with four innings pitched, allowing two hits and striking out six. He said he wasn’t nervous when he took the mound.
“I like throwing in those situations. Playing in front of all those people is pretty cool. I think I was a little more amped up than pitching back in Chattahoochee, playing in front of about 10 people,” he said, grinning.
The Chattahoochee players were loose and enthusiastic after the big win, even joking about Campbell’s big mistake on his two-run double.
“He swung through a take sign,” Thomas said, smiling.
Campbell shrugged about the missed sign.
“Apparently I got the take sign,” he said. “I looked over there, but I didn’t see anything. I was just focused on my at-bat.”
Then he ripped the game-tying double.
“When I got back to the dugout, the guys said, ‘Did you know you were swinging through a take sign?’ And my heart dropped. I’m glad (the hit) fell in,” he said.
One of the turning points for Yavapai came in the fifth inning, when starting pitcher Reza Aleaziz had to come out of the game with back spasms after 84 pitches with the Roughriders leading 8-4.
“I thought he threw very well,” Yavapai coach Ryan Cougill said. “He is good for 110, 115. With his adrenaline, he could have gone 300 today, probably. “
Yavapai threatened in the ninth with a runner on. After Christian Vann relieved Burks, Luke Doyle ripped a ball to the deepest part of the park, but Webb made the catch in center field with a hand on the wall. First baseman Grayson Ivey then snagged a line drive off Hartley’s bat to end the game.
The Roughriders electrified the crowd in the first inning when Calhoun, Doyle and Olmeda all scored, showing speed on the base paths, and Brody Clifford knocked in two runs with a hard-hit triple.
“They came out tight and gave us a five-spot. We came out tight and gave them a three-spot in the second,” Cougill said. “It is kind of a tough one, because you never know how your team is going to respond to this atmosphere and this scenery.”
JUCO WORLD SERIES GAME 7
Chatt valley 9, yavapai 8
up next: Chattahoochee Valley vs. Iowa Western-NW Florida winner, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Yavapai vs. lowa Western-NW Florida loser, Tuesday, 11 a.m.