When Jake Jarvis reached first base in the bottom of the ninth inning, he looked to his left and saw the ball he hit still bouncing in the outfield between San Jacinto College-North (Texas) players.
He then turned around and saw all of his Central Arizona College teammates, as well as his coach, Anthony Gilich, charging toward him in exuberance.
Jarvis’ two-run single was the game-winner for the sixth-seeded Vaqueros in a 11-10 thriller to oust the third-seeded Gators from the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“We talk about this a lot a practice: with a runner on third and less than two outs, you can tap the ball, slap it, flare it, just do whatever you need to do just to put it in play and get that run home,” Jarvis said. “It looks exactly like that. I just tried to slap it in play and get that run home. I wasn’t trying to drive the ball into the gap. The infield was backed up, I put the ball in play, we scored the runs and it came out our way today.”
Central Arizona (51-7), which led from the second inning, had a 9-6 lead going into the top of the ninth when San Jacinto (51-15) staged a stunning rally. Sabin Ceballos and Harold Coll led off the inning with singles off Tyler Woessner, who then walked Austin Roccaforte to load the bases with no outs.
Jordan Williams’ two-run single brought the Gators to within 9-8. Mason Lytle then reached first base on a fielder’s choice that scored Williams and Luke Pectol to give San Jacinto a 10-9 advantage.
However, the Vaqueros found some late magic of their own and kept their bid for a second straight national championship alive. Dayton Dooney led off the ninth with a double down the right-field line and Kirk Romero doubled to give Central Arizona two runners in scoring position.
“We put in all the work in the fall and in January for moments like this,” Jarvis said. “I was just really happy I was able to come through for the team and help us advance and live to see another day with a chance to compete for a national championship.”
“We try to hit good pitches and not try to do too much,” added JD McLaughlin, who hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning. “We have a saying as a team: simple does it. If we can keep it simple, our team’s too good to be beat.”
Central Arizona got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning, when Jarvis hit a two-run home run to left field. Two batters later, Seth Beckstead’s solo home run gave the Vaqueros into a 3-0 lead.
That lead grew in the third. Dusty Garcia hit a deep single to score Dooney and a wild pitch by Lex Garcia — one of five on the day for the Gators’ reliever — allowed Romero to score from third base for a 5-0 lead.
Vaqueros starting pitcher Liam Evans made that early lead stand up by keeping the San Jac batters off-balance. He struck out six and allowed only two hits through the first five innings, with their only run before the fifth coming on a bases-loaded, one-out walk in the fourth.
He followed that walk by striking out the next two batters, exiting the inning with minimal damage done.
“Our attitude on the day was to just go out there and compete, fill out the zone and go north, south, east and west with all pitches,” Evans said. “I felt like I went out there and competed, especially with the defense behind me making some good plays.”
After Beckstead scored on another wild pitch by Lex Garcia to make it 6-1, San Jacinto finally found its offensive groove in the top of the sixth inning, scoring four runs. Cabellos’ single sent Alan Shibley home, Chase Adkison scored on a fielder’s choice by Roccaforte and Jordan Williams crushed a home run to left to trim the lead to 6-5.
The Vaqueros quickly rallied in the bottom of the sixth. After Matt Aribal singled and Preston Godfrey’s deep drive bounced off the outfield wall for a double, McLaughin launched line-drive home run to left, making the score 9-5 and restoring the breathing room they had just lost.
Of course, that breathing room evaporated in the ninth. That gut punch wasn’t enough to keep them down when it was their turn at the plate.
“How fun are elimination games? Everybody’s laying everything on the line,” Gilich said. “We can’t hold anything back. We have to push all our chips in all the way. We certainly did that and San Jac certainly did that. What a heck of a game. It would have been really easy for us to roll over there in the ninth since the top of the ninth didn’t go as planned, but we came back.”