Navarro College (Texas) stepped on the gas from the first pitch and did not let up Thursday night in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series to force a rematch with Iowa Western Community College again tonight.
The 15th-ranked Bulldogs scored at least six runs in an inning three times in a 23-8 rout of ninth-ranked Iowa Western at Suplizio Field. The teams meet again at 7 tonight, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA national championship game at 7 on Saturday night.
"It was just a great effort by our guys. Iowa Western is a great ballclub," Navarro coach Matt Podjenski said. "Offensively we did a great job of trusting the plan, trusting the approach. We were able to take advantage of mistakes. The thing I'm most proud of is we kept scoring. We were relentless offensively. We weren't satisfied with one big inning. We kept having quality at-bat after quality at-bat. Against a good team, you cannot be satisfied. That team over there (in the other dugout) is not going to quit."
Thursday's game reminded Podjenski of a game the Bulldogs had early in the season, a 25-7 loss at Grayson College (Texas) in late February. That loss was one Navarro freshman Stacey Bailey did not care to be reminded about.
"That's the game I was trying to forget," Bailey said. "It was just one of those days. It challenges you and shows you who you are. I think (that loss) helped us to get to where we are today."
The Bulldogs (41-17) won nine of 10 games after that loss to get back on track.
"That game was a wake-up call for us," Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo said. "We got together and had a talk with the players. We had to turn things around and start doing things the right way for our teammates so we could end up on top instead of the bottom of that type of score."
Cardoza-Oquendo led the Bulldogs' offense against Iowa Western, going 3 for 5 with double, triple and five RBI.
"We wanted to start off this game with a big push," Cardoza-Oquendo said. "I really put it on myself to try and be the support for the lineup. I knew if I could get things rolling the guys behind me would drive guys in."
He kick-started the offense with a double down the first-base line in the second inning to score a run. Two more runs scored on wild pitches, then Bailey smoked a fastball over the left-field bleachers and into the grass parking lot for a three-run home run and a 7-0 lead.
"I just threw my hands at it and tried not to do too much," Bailey said.
Navarro's offense exploded in the fourth inning, hitting for the cycle as a team and scoring eight runs. Bailey walked, Cash Rugley doubled and Jose Gonzalez Jr. hit a three-run home run deep into the right-field parking lot for a 12-4 lead. Dawson Woods followed with a base hit. Two walks later, Cardoza-Oquendo hit a three-run triple down the first-base line, giving the Bulldogs' a 15-4 lead. By the time the inning ended, the Bulldogs led 17-4.
Iowa Western (51-10) responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning to entertain the idea of a making a comeback, but Navarro center fielder Mason Holt ended that hope with a diving catch to end the inning.
The Bulldogs put the game away with six runs in the fifth, including Kyle Landers' two-run home run.
Iowa Western collected the same number of hits as Navarro, but committed four errors and walked 13 batters.
"We were depleted with pitching tonight," Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin said. "I kind of had a feeling of the outcome. I didn't think it would be three touchdowns and a safety.
"Our pitching was horrendous. They had zero walks and we had 13. That's the bottom line."
Thursday night was a game Rardin would like to forget.
"I don't know why I would want to remember it," Rardin said.