GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO
A picture's worth a thousand words. The picture of the scoreboard after Thursday night's loss at the JUCO World Series for Iowa Western Baseball was one to forget. With a berth in the National Title game at stake, the Reivers (52-10, 4-1 JUCO) got back to the formula that made them one of the final three teams alive in NJCAA Division 1 baseball on Friday night against Navarro (41-18, 3-2 JUCO) at Sam Suplizio Field. Braedyn McLaughlin turned in 4 2/3 innings of solid work on the mound, while the Reiver offense kept clicking. The leading offensive team at the JUCO World Series plated 15 runs against a Navarro pitching staff that had no answers, top to bottom, for the Reiver line-up in a 15-7, run-rule, 8-inning final.
The Reivers got what they desperately needed to start Friday's game, pitching. McLaughlin struck out a pair of Bulldog batters in the Top of the 1st to leave a zero on the scoreboard in the visiting team's column, something that the Reivers couldn't get done one night previous. In the bottom half, the table setter went to work. Shortstop Cooper Bowman slapped a single to the outfield to start things off and advanced to second on a passed ball by Navarro starter Carson Rollins and to third on a single by Caleb Balgaard. The Reivers left fielder was called out at 2nd on a tag that he appeared to avoid leaving Bowman 90 feet away with 1-away. Gibson Krzeminski was then hit by a pitch to put runners on at the corners with 1st baseman Ronald Sweeny III coming to the plate. Sweeny promptly singled past first base into right field to score Bowman and advance Krzeminski. Jaden Rolffs followed with a sharp liner up the middle that was snared by Navarro shortstop Cash Rugely, the first of several 'Top 10' worthy plays for the Bulldogs on defense. Isaiah Peterson walked to load the bases with 2-away before the threat ended when DH Greg Bennett struck out swinging to end the threat.
A close play at first led to a lead-off single by Rugely in the top of the 2nd. Bowman double clutched and that was enough to allow Rugely to beat the throw. McLaughlin induced slugger Jose Gonzalez, Jr. into a weak pop-up back to the mound, before striking out catcher Dawson Woods, his 3rd called strikeout of the game. 'Dogs left fielder Kyle Hawkins became the 3rd out on the 2nd infield pop-up of the inning as Bowman made the catch with the Reivers still leading 1-0. Ross Indlecoffer led off the bottom half by hammering a 1-1 pitch off the Barnes Electric sign beyond the right-field wall. The solo shot was the 3rd of the tournament for the South Alabama bound sophomore. Colin Kasperbauer followed with a sharp fly to the left-field wall, but before it could smack off the advertisements at Sam Suplizio Field, Hawkins slid in to make a spectacular catch to rob the freshman second baseman. Cooper Bowman followed with his second hit of the night, a single to center followed by his second stolen base of the tournament. The freshman scored one pitch later when Balgaard collected another hit, a single to center. Krzeminski followed by putting the ball into play on a check swing for a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play to end the inning with the Reivers leading 3-0.
McLaughlin worked another quick top half, the only damage was the first walk issued by Reiver pitching, a stark contrast to Thursday night's match-up with Navarro. In the bottom of the 3rd, Sweeny and Rolffs worked back-to-back free passes before Peterson struck out on a 3-2 called strike. Bennett then mashed a double to left-center to plate Sweeny from 3rd base and Rolffs from 2nd. After Bennett moved to 3rd on his second stolen base of the tourney, Indlecoffer reached on a fielder's choice as Bennett was thrown out trying to score at home. Indlecoffer would score after consecutive singles by Kasperbauer and Bowman before Balgaard struck out to end the inning after the Reivers had doubled their lead to 6-0.
Navarro finally got on the board in the top of the 4th when 3rd baseman Stacy Bailey walked to lead off the inning and then advanced to 3rd on a hard hit ball by Rugely. Rugely was thrown out trying to advance to 2nd as Krzeminski's throw was on the money to Bowman. The run would score when Bailey came in on an RBI groundout by Gonzalez, Jr. before Woods flew out to Balgaard to end the top half. The Reivers, up 4-1, added to the lead in the bottom half as Krzeminski turned a lead-off walk into a run when Peterson smacked a sac fly to left. Bennett and Rolffs were stranded at 1st and 2nd as Indlecoffer struck out to end the inning with the Reivers back in front by four runs, 5-1.
A 1-out single in the 5th led to Navarro's 2nd run of the evening, as light hitting right fielder Wesley Powell would eventually come around to score on a passed ball after a wild inning from McLaughlin. Brandon Doty would enter to induce a groundball to third to end a bases-loaded threat by the Bulldogs. Kasperbauer led off the bottom of the inning with his 2nd single of the day and advanced to second on an error by Mason Holt, Navarro's centerfielder. Bowman walked and then he and Kasperbauer advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. A Balgaard walk was followed by a Krzeminski RBI groundout to score Kasperbauer and up the score to 8-2, IWCC. Sweeny rapped the Reivers 2nd sac fly of the game to score Bowman and Rolffs dropped a fly ball over the rightfield wall for his 1st homer of the tourney to propel the Reivers to an 11-2 lead into the 6th.
Navarro stranded another pair of runners on in the top of the inning before shutting out the Reivers for the first time in the bottom of the 6th with IWCC just one run from a run-rule victory.
The Bulldogs, needing to score to keep playing, would prolong the game in the 7th when two runs scored on an error with two outs. Jose Gonzalez, Jr. hit a major league pop-up that dropped in among Bowman, Kasperbauer & Sweeny as Landers and Rugely raced in to make the score 11-4. Closer Trystan Kimmel would finally get the strikeout the Reivers were looking for to strand the bases loaded for the second time in the game for Navarro. The Reivers would come up empty after the stretch, needing just one run back for a run-rule victory.
Navarro's pesky 2nd baseman, Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo, homered to start the 8th, followed by back-to-back strikeouts by Kimmel. The Bulldogs then reached on a potential inning-ending grounder when Sweeny couldn't squeeze a throw from Indlecoffer. Back-to-back singles followed to plate another pair of Bulldog runs and the Reivers came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th, leading just 11-7. Greg Bennett led off the bottom half with his 2nd home run of the tournament, a no-doubter to left to cushion the lead to 12-7. Ross Indlecoffer was hit by a pitch and advanced to 3rd base on Colin Kasperbauer's third single of the night, advancing to 2nd on the Bulldogs attempt to get Indlecoffer. A wild pitch would score Indlecoffer to make it 13-7 Reivers before Cooper Bowman took ball four on a wild pitch that plated Kasperbauer. Bowman then swiped his second base of the game to get into scoring position for Caleb Balgaard. Balgaard struck out swinging, but raced to 1st on another wild pitch by Bulldogs' pitching, allowing Bowman to reach 3rd with no outs in the inning. Needing just one run to win via run-rule, Gibson Krzeminski swatted a 3-2 pitch to center, the ball rolling to the wall scoring Bowman for the walk-off victory.
Brandon Doty picked up his 2nd win of the series in relief, while Cooper Bowman scored four runs at the top of the order. Greg Bennett's RBI total at the series increased to 13, while five of the nine Reiver batters maintained a .500 + average through five games at the tournament.
The victory forces a rematch with Central Arizona (49-20, 4-1 JUCO) for the 2019 JUCO World Series Championship, Saturday night at 8:00 pm central at Sam Suplizio Field. The Vaqueros only tournament loss was a run-rule, 14-4, defeat to the Reivers on Tuesday night.
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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