GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Walters State’s postseason run came to an end Sunday afternoon in the elimination bracket of the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction.
The No. 7 Senators battled back to tie No. 2 Navarro four times, including a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, but they never took the lead and fell 7-5 to the Bulldogs in 10 innings, bringing their sixth trip to the World Series to a close.
With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 44-16 on the season, and they will take on Palm Beach State Monday morning in an elimination game.
The loss ends the season for the Senators with a 37-18 record, and officially ends the greatest athletic year in Walters State history where all five national tournament eligible teams advanced to their respective NJCAA postseason events.
The game was a pitcher’s duel between Walters State’s Jay Gause and Navarro’s Gage Curry for six innings, with neither allowing the other team to get much going on offense.
The Bulldogs plated the first run in the second inning. Byron Reichstein singled, moved to second on a grounder and advanced to third on a balk by Gause. Mason Salazar followed with an infield single that plates Reichstein and gave Navarro a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs held the lead into the third, when the Senators bounced back and plated an unearned run to tie the game. Jake Farr reached on an error before an Elijah Sutherland walk. A wild pitch by Curry moved Farr to third, and Michael Smith drove him in with a single to knot the score at 1.
Navarro fired back in the fourth to reclaim the lead, as Grayson Lewis delivered an RBI single to put the Bulldogs on top, 2-1.
In the fifth inning, Walters State tied it again. Colin Bennett led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Hipchen. After a grounder by Farr moved him to third, Bennett scored on a wild pitch to tie it at 2.
Jovan Hernandez gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead in the sixth with an RBI single, but the Senators once again responded to pull even. Reid Mathews clubbed a solo homer down the left field line, tying it at 3.
The Bulldogs attempted to give themselves some breathing room in the seventh, and they plated two runs and chased Gause from the game. Drake Roberts had an RBI double on a perfect hit and run play, and Tyler Wilson added an RBI single to make it 5-3. Tyler Brosius came on in relief and got the final two outs and worked scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to give the Senators another chance to rally.
Hipchen and Farr ripped back-to-back doubles to open the bottom of the ninth to plate a run, and Smith added an RBI single to tie the score at 5. Jared Allen added a two-out single, but he was thrown out at second trying to stretch it to a double.
Navarro used that play as a spark going into the 10th frame. Salazar slapped an RBI single, and Kaleb Goodell added a run scoring base hit to build the lead to 7-5.
The Senators could not score in the bottom of the inning, as Dustin Woody singled with one outs, but Hipchen grounded out to third to end the game and the season for Walters State.
Goodell, Roberts, Wilson and Reichstein all had two hits in the win for the Bulldogs. Blake Griffin picked up the win in relief after allowing two earned runs on five hits in three innings of work. Jack Moffit notched the save after giving up a hit in a scoreless inning of relief. Curry tossed six innings and gave up three runs – two earned – on five hits as the starter.
Smith led the Senators with three hits in the contest, while Woody added two hits. Mathews homered, while Hipchen and Farr both added doubles in the loss.
Brosius (3-2) took the loss after giving up two earned runs on three hits in 3.2 innings of relief. Gause worked 6.1 innings and surrendered five earned runs on nine hits in a no decision.