Baseball keeps East lead after series win over NTCC


Satchel Paige never looked back.  Neither have the Navarro Bulldogs.

No one ‘gained’ on the former Negro League and MLB Hall of Fame pitcher.  And no one is gaining on coach Matt Podjenski’s East Zone-leading Bulldogs (22-17-1/15-6), who successfully have protected with life and limb a one-game lead over No. 15 ranked Panola (34-9/14-7) through three conference series since March 26.

Since that date, they’ve been deadlocked multiple times — including twice during their first head-to-head series — but the Bulldogs regained the lead each time.


Keith Speer Photo

As the Bulldogs go, so go the Ponies in the same remarkable 2-1 rhythm.  For a third straight series, the Pre-Easter weekend aligned with both teams winning two-of-three — Navarro defeating Northeast Texas; Panola taking the measure of Angelina.

FRIDAY:  Game 2 of 2 — Navarro 3, Northeast 0

Pitchers Tate Gillespie, Johnny Panatex, Asher Cook and Brandon Ivey combined on a five-hit shutout in the nightcap as the Bulldogs claimed a doubleheader split at Graham Field.

Matt Munoz scored fourth- and eighth-inning runs on sacrifice flies off the bats of Dawson Shelburn and Collin Chaney.  Navarro’s other run came in the third when Jacob Walker tripled into the rightfield corner with one out, enabling Noah Menchaca (walk) to score.

Northeast           000 000 000 – 0-5-2
Navarro              001  100  01X – 3-5-0
WP: Gillespie.   LP: Bayless.   Sv: Ivey.

FRIDAY, Game 1 of 2 — Northeast 4, Navarro 2

The Eagles scored three of their four runs with two-out rallies.

NTCC scored in its first at-bat as leadoff-hitting centerfielder Darien Sims walked and later scored on a fielder’s choice groundout.


Keith Speer Photo

Navarro tied it in the home half as Shelburn’s one-out single to left scored Robert Salazar.

Rightfielder Emmanuel Garcia poked a two-out, two-run double down the leftfield line in the third, scoring Justin Bundy (walk) and Kyle Moss (single).

Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Navarro got one run back when Francisco Dejesus led off with a double and scored on Chaney’s oppo bloop single to leftfield.

In the seventh, the Eagles got a two-out insurance run as second baseman Taylor Barber doubled home first baseman Nelson Torres, who had singled.

Brady Batten went five innings for the pitching victory, scattering six hits, walking two, allowing two earned runs and striking out seven.

Northeast     102 000 1 – 4-7-1
Navarro        010 100 0 – 2-8-0
WP: Batten.  LP: Ulloa.   Sv: Dawson

THURSDAY, Game 1 — Navarro 5, Northeast 4

Navarro scored twice in the seventh and ninth innings to overcome a 4-1 deficit and defeat the Northeast Texas CC Eagles Thursday at Mount Pleasant.

Despite stranding 13 runners, Navarro somehow managed to battle back for the victory behind a pair of freshmen — winning lefthander Paul Dickens and right-handed closer Asher Cook.  Together, they threw six scoreless innings after the Eagles exploded for all 4 runs during the third inning.

Dickens replaced starter Gary Watkins and was virtually untouchable.  He retired 15 of 17 batters, including stretches of 8 and 6 in succession.  He struck out five and allowed a pair of two-out singles during five innings of work.

After Dickens’ 67-pitch stint, Cook was summoned to face Northeast’s 3-4-5 hitters and they went down 1-2-3 on 12 pitches with two strikeouts.


Keith Speer Photo

With two out in the second, Navarro scored the game’s first run as consecutive singles by Salazar, Chaney and Shelburn off NTCC starter Max Martinez.  Shelburn delivered Salazar from second base with his single to centerfield.

The Eagles used an fielding error, plus four hits to tally four times off Watkins during the third inning.  Run-scoring singles by Simms and Brady Batten preceded a two-run double to right field by first baseman Will Dawson.

In the seventh, NC climbed within 4-3 as reliever Brody Curry loaded the bases on walks to Francisco Dejesus, Braden Williams and Josh Ragan. NTCC went to its bullpen for lefty Timmy Yelverton.  Salazar drew a full-count, two-out walk that enabled Dejesus to score. Chaney singled to right field on 0-1 to plate Williams.

Salazar came up big again in the ninth with a one-out, game-tying single to centerfield that scored Ragan. Ragan and Munoz had reached on back-to-back, one-out singles.  While Munoz was thrown out at the plate 5-2 on a fielder’s choice grounder, the ball got away from NTCC’s catcher and Salazar raced home for the go-ahead run.

DOG BITES:  The Bulldogs remain pacesetters despite losing starting second baseman Matt Wood (torn labrum), shortstop Layton Wolver (broken hand) for the season.  Third baseman Salazar missed about two weeks with illness, and utility infielder and back-up catcher Beau Orlando may be nearing a return from an elbow injury….NC’s infield on the left side became so thin when Salazar was ill that a redshirt had to be removed from Dawson Shelburn.  He’s responded with one home run and seven runs-batted-in, scored five runs and walked five times since making his debut against Temple in mid-March….

Through Games of Friday, April 14
TEAM             ALL            CONF
Navarro           22-17-1         15-6
Panola              34-9             14-7
Paris                 21-17             10-8
Angelina          15-27              9-12
Northeast        17-23              8-13
BPCC                15-23              4-14

ON DECK FOR NAVARRO: (April 18-22)
Non-Conference Tuesday — Blinn at Navarro, 3 pm
Conference Thursday — Navarro at Paris, 3 pm
Conference Saturday — Paris at Navarro (DH), 1 / 3 pm