By MIKE MONTFORT
Navarro scored twice in the second and third innings and then rode solid pitching to a 4-3 non-conference win over the McLennan Highlanders here Friday at Graham Field.
Coach Matt Podjenski’s Bulldogs (5-6) snapped a five-game losing streak and won the finale of a three-game set. Southpaw sophomore starter Paul Dickens claimed his first pitching victory over 2018 as he worked five innings, yielded six hits and struck out seven Highlanders. Sophomore Asher Cook picked up his third save of the young season.
Third baseman Noah Menchaca doubled home Navarro’s two second-inning runs off righthanded starter Levi David. Menchaca drove a 3-1 pitch to right-center field that scored Beau Orlando an Tim Bechtold with the game’s first runs. Orlando was hit by a pitch and Bechtold reached on a single.
Dickens evaded a serious third-inning threat by striking out leftfielder Chase Sortor and catcher Jackson Nichols with the bases loaded.
After shortstop George Callil struck out to open the inning, leadoff-hitting centerfielder Dylan Neuse slugged an 0-2 pitch for his second home run of the series and sliced Navarro’s lead in half. The Highlanders’ 2-3-4 hitters — third baseman Griffin Paxton, DH Josh Breaux and first baseman Keaton Milford — all followed with singles.
Dickens dug in and fanned Sortor, who was a combined 5-for-8 with two homers and five RBI in Thursday’s doubleheader at Bosque River Ballpark in Waco. Then, Dickens struck out Nichols to kill the scoring opportunity.
Navarro’s offense rewarded Dickens by picking up more runs off reliever Shane Daughety. After second baseman Kalen Hammer reached on a error, Josh Ragan doubled him home. First baseman Scott Hastings followed with a single on a 2-1 pitch that brought home Ragan.
In the sixth, MCC added a two-out run off reliever Tanner Riley as rightfielder Thomas Santos doubled and scored on second baseman Aidan Shepardson’s single to left. Shepardson worked a nine-pitch at bat against Riley, fouling off five pitches before drilling the key hit.
The Highlanders nicked Johnny Panatex for an eighth-inning run.
Cook came on in the ninth and retired the top of MCC’s order. He retired Neuse and replacement third basean Mitchell Caskey on eight pitches, and then battled with catcher-DH-pitcher Josh Breaux — considered MLB’s top junior college prospect this year. Breaux drew a two-out walk. Then, with the tying run aboard, Cook had to deal with Milford, who had three of MCC’s hits. Milford grounded Cook’s second offering to Hammer who fielded cleanly and threw out the MCC first baseman to end the game.
The loss dropped McLennan to 10-3 on the season.
Weather permitting, Navarro is scheduled Monday to face Grayson for a 2 pm non-conference game at Graham Field before heading to Hobbs, NM., for a four-game weekender against the New Mexico JC Thunderbirds.
Navarro 4, McLennan 3
McLennan 001 001 010 — 3-11-1
Navarro 022 000 00x — 4-8-1
MCC – Levi David, Shane Daughety (3), Nick Urbantke (5), Daniel Cole (6), Connor Heffron (7), Josh Breaux (8) and Jackson Nichols, Nick Thomquist (8). NC – Paul Dickens, Tanner Riley (6), Johnny Panatex (7), Asher Cook (9) and Beau Orlando. WP: Dickens. LP: David. Sv: Cook (3). Leading Hitters: MCC – Dylan Neuse (2/5, HR, RBI); Keaton Milford (3/5, 2B); Josh Breaux (2/4); Thomas Santos (2/4, 2B, RBI); Aidan Shepardson (1/4, RBI). NC — Josh Ragan (1/4, 2B, RBI); Scott Hastings (1/4, RBI); Beau Orlando (2/2, 2B, 2-HBP); Noah Menchaca (1/4, 2B, 2 RBI).
Thursday Game 2 — McLENNAN 11, NAVARRO 9
The Highlanders had coasted to an 8-3 lead after three innings, but Navarro rallied and overtook MCC for a 9-8 lead with a four-run seventh inning. MCC scored runs in each of its first three innings off starter Brady Mehl and reliever Collin Storms. Paxton slugged a three-run homer to rightfield and Sortor followed with a solo shot to centerfield as the first five Highlander hitters reached base safely.
Colin Wyman, Navarro’s third pitcher, threw 3.2 innings of one-hit shutout relief and struck out four to give his offense a chance to battle back.
Navarro’s go-ahead, two-out rally in the seventh featured Bechtold’s two-run single, plus two errors that enabled two other runs to score.
MCC tallied three eighth-inning runs to complete Thursday’s sweep. Fourth pitcher Trey Becerra surrendered singles to Callil and Neuse before giving way to Cook. Cook got two outs without allowing an inherited runner to score, but Milford lived on an fielding error that kept the threat alive. Sortor, 4-for-5 with two doubles on the game, plated two runs with a single.
McLENNAN 11, NAVARRO 9
Navarro 021 020 400 – 9-10-3
McLennan 134 000 03X – 11-11-3
Brady Mehl, Collin Storms (3), Colin Wyman (3), Trey Becerra (6), Asher Cook (8) and Justin Moore. Tristen Bayless, Grant Miller (6), Alex DeLeon (7) and Nick Thornquist. WP: DeLeon. LP: Trey Becerra. Leading Hitters: Navarro – Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo (1-4, RBI); Tim Bechtold (3-5, 2 RBI); Noah Menchaca (1-3, HR, 3 RBI); Matt Wood (0-5, RBI); Derek Mueller (1-5, 2b). McLennan – Dylan Neuse (2-4), Keaton Milford (2-5, 2b, RBI); Griffin Paxton (1-4, HR, 3 RBI); Chase Sortor (4-5, 2 2b, HR, 4 RBI); Nick Thornquist (1-3, 2b); George Callil (2-4, 2b, 2 RBI). Records: McLennan 10-2. Navarro 4-6.
Thursday, Game 1 — McLENNAN 4, NAVARRO 2
McLennan broke a 2-2 tie with one-out, third-inning home run by Sortor and a fourth-inning leadoff shot by Neuse.
The Highlanders scored twice in the first off starter Austin Faith, thanks to run-scoring singles from Milford and DH Grant Miller.
In the top of the second, Navarro tied it on Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo’s one-out single to centerfield that plated Menchaca (walk) and centerfielder Derek Mueller (double).
McLENNAN 4, NAVARRO 2
Navarro 002 000 0 – 2-5-1
McLennan 201 100 x – 4-7-1
Austin Faith, Pepper Jones (5) and Beau Orlando. Logan Freeman, Peyton Strambler (7) and Josh Breaux. WP: Freeman. LP: Faith. SV: Strambler. Leading Hitters: Navarro – Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo (2-3, 2 RBI) and Derek Mueller (1-2, 2b). McLennan – Dylan Neuse (2-3, HR, RBI); Keaton Milford (2-3, RBI); Grant Miller (1-3, RBI); Chase Sortor (1-3, HR, RBI). Record: McLennan 9-2. Navarro 4-5.