GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO
A formidable foe stood in front of Iowa Western Baseball's 2019 JUCO World Series run on Tuesday night. The Vaqueros of Central Arizona (47-19, 2-0 JUCO) awaited the Reivers (49-9, 1-0 JUCO) in the top of the bracket and hadn't been slowed in the postseason. CAC had accumulated 71 runs in 5 games since switching to the metal bats used outside of their wood bat league, all double-digit outbursts and all wins.
It appeared Central Arizona was headed for another high scoring output in the top of the 1st when shortstop Liam Spence took a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall for a home run to lead off the game. Reivers' starter Jordan Bonk walked the next batter before inducing a double-play grounder and another groundout to escape the inning down just 1-0.
The tide turned quickly in the bottom half of the 1st as Iowa Western's bats continued to sizzle. Leadoff hitter Cooper Bowman blasted a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence to tie the game at 1. It was the freshman's third longball of the season and countered the Vaqueros lead-off shot. Left fielder Caleb Balgaard followed with a double and scored one batter later when Ronald Sweeny III plated him with an RBI-single. The Reivers couldn't do any more damage in the inning despite another single and a walk from Vaqueros starting pitcher Avery Jones.
With a 2-1 lead, Bonk gave up a leadoff single in the top of the 2nd before a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a fly to center to maintain the lead. Iowa Western broke through again in the bottom half, Colin Kasperbauer and Ross Indlecoffer led off with back to back singles before a sacrifice bunt from Bowman loaded the bases after the Central Arizona pitcher attempted to get Kasperbauer at 3rd. With the bases loaded, Balgaard hit a sharp ground ball at the Vaqueros' 3rd baseman. One step away from the 3rd base bag, Ian Raidy inexplicably decided for the out at home instead of forcing Indlecoffer at 3rd. The throw went wide of the catcher and to the backstop, scoring a pair of Reiver runs for a 4-1 lead. Sweeny then hit a deep fly to left to score Bowman for the Reivers 5th run of the game and a 4-run lead.
Bonk continued to cruise in the 3rd, picking up his 3rd and 4th strikeouts to keep the visiting squad at bay. The sophomore's offense continued to produce in the bottom of the inning as Kasperbauer got on with a single on a high pop-up into the Bermuda triangle in right-center with 2-outs, advancing to 2nd after a misplay by Vaqueros centerfielder Brennan Reback. Indlecoffer would drive him with another 2-out double and the Reivers led 6-1. After a Bowman walk, Balgaard continued his hot hitting, doubling to score both runners as the score ballooned to a 7-run lead after 3 innings.
Another 1-2-3 inning on the mound for Bonk produced his 5th strikeout and the Reivers went back to work in the bottom of the 4th. Gibson Krzeminski doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to 3rd on a single by centerfielder Isaiah Peterson. Head Coach Marc Rardin then called a delayed double steal and Krzeminski and Peterson executed it to perfection with Peterson moving to 2nd base and Krzeminski adding run number 9 to the total for the home side. Mason Speirs earned a base on balls after entering as a pinch-hitter and two batters later it was Indlecoffer's turn again. The sophomore from Vadnais Heights, Minnesota put the exclamation point on the Reivers offensive outburst by hammering a 2-2 pitch into the night sky for a 3-run homer. The blast was the Reivers' sixth of the tournament and put the game within 3-outs of a run-rule victory.
Facing a 12-1 deficit, Central Arizona went to the bench to try and spark a comeback. Vaqueros Head Coach Anthony Gilich sent back-to-back pinch hitters to the plate in the Top of the 5th and it paid off. Matt Aribal walked and Luke Schwartz brought him in on a 2-run home run to left, the sophomore's first homer of the season. Bonk continued to battle for the Reivers, collecting his 6th and 7th strikeouts to hold Central to just 2 runs despite the shaky start to the inning. Despite earning a pair of free passes in the bottom of the 5th, the offense couldn't get it going for IWCC and the Reivers held a 12-3 lead into the 6th.
Central Arizona slugger Ernny Ordonez led off the 6th by taking a pitch between the shoulder blades to earn a trip to 1st base. Bonk followed with his 3rd walk of the game before giving way to freshman Shea Zetterman. Zetterman got help from 1st baseman Ronald Sweeny on the first batter he faced as Sweeny snagged a sharp, bouncing liner to erase one Vaquero baserunner. After striking out Aribal with runners on the corner, Zetterman allowed a single to Schwartz that plated Ordonez to make the score 12-4 IWCC. A long battle with Vaqueros catcher Jake Meyer was won by Zetterman when he got the University of Arizona transfer to fly out to right to erase the rally. After back-to-back outs to start the bottom of the 6th, it appeared that the Vaqueros would survive another inning, but the Reivers had other ideas. Indlecoffer reached on a 2-out single before a wild pitch advanced him to 2nd and a balk moved him to 3rd base. Cooper Bowman's 3rd walk of the game placed runners at the corners for the offense. Bowman, 26-29 on the season in stolen base attempts, attracted the attention of CAC pitcher Jye Deeble to the point of distraction. Deeble attempted to pick-off Bowman with no one covering at 1st and his throw sailed into right field, allowing Indlecoffer to score and Bowman to advance to 3rd base. After a walk to Caleb Balgaard put runners at the corners, Deeble through a pitch to the backstop with Sweeny at the plate to score Bowman from 3rd and give the Reivers a walk-off 10-run win in 6 innings.
Jordan Bonk pitched 5 innings, allowing just 4 runs on 4 hits to an offense that had collected 22 of both in the previous 2 games. The Reivers 8, 9 and 1 hitters scored 11 of the 14 runs, while Ross Indlecoffer enjoyed the most productive night on the offense, driving in 4 and scoring 4 on 4 solid hits to up his JUCO World Series average to .750.
The win allowed the Reivers to reach the 50-win plateau for the 9th time in school history and to move on in the top side of the bracket where Walters State awaits Wednesday night at 8:30 Central time.
All action from the Reivers run at the 2019 JUCO World Series can be heard on Iowa Western's FM radio station, 89.7 the River. The station streams for free, worldwide, at www.897theRiver.com.
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