02 May ‘Dogs clinch East Zone title with walkoff HBP in 8th
It was a walkoff!
Navarro Baseball’s third Region XIV East Zone Championship in four years was accomplished on a walkoff. A bases-loaded walkoff hit-by-pitch. In the eighth inning.
Northeast’s fourth pitcher of the day, righthander Brody Curry, walked Scott Hastings with the bases full and then hit batters Beau Orlando and Tim Bechtold consecutively to give the Bulldogs the necessary three runs to enact the run-rule in the eighth inning.
The strange, premature finish actually stunted Navarro’s celebration of its 11-3 clincher near first base. Once the party started, the reality of an outright title and the East Zone’s No.1 seed for the Region XIV Tournament at Lufkin May 12-16 began to take its grip. The championship was the cherry on top of the win in the final game of the regular season at Perry D. Graham Field, where Navarro went 18-8.
For Navarro (33-20/21-7), the conference baseball title is its third under head coach Matt Podjenski and the program’s 16th since 1994.
Wednesday’s heroes were numerous:
- Starting pitcher Austin Faith (8-1, 3.08) became the team’s first 8-game winner, claimed his seventh win in 10 league outings and remained unbeaten since a February 15 non-conference game at McLennan. Faith threw 109 pitches in six innings, gave up three earned runs on four hits with five walks, and struck out five. The righthander didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning.
- Sophomore catcher Beau Orlando’s blazing bat continued to light the way. Orlando had four consecutive singles, scored a run and knocked in two Wednesday. The Central Arkansas commit now has 12 hits in his last 13 at-bats, with 6 runs scored and 5 runs-batted-in during the last four games.
- Sophomore shortstop Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo saw two pitches from NTCC starter Tyler Navarro in the bottom of the first — and watched the second one fly over the rightfield fence for his first home run of the season. The transfer from TCU who went 2-for-3 and knocked in three runs Wednesday, now has a 10-game hitting streak and hits in 15 of his last 16 contests. NC’s leadoff hitter, a two-out RBI staple for the club, has driven in 12 runs in eight of his last 10 games.
- Freshman DH Mason Holt extended his hitting streak to 11 games (20/39, .513) with a single and scored twice.
- Sophomore Josh Ragan hit safely for the seventh time in eight games, a span in which he has batted .548 (17-of-31).
The Bulldogs are pitching and they are hitting and they are playing defense. Wednesday, they enjoyed six consecutive one-out hits during their seventh seven-run inning of the year. They totaled 13 hits off four Northeast pitchers. They scored double-figure runs for the 17th game this season. They’ve turned five doubles plays in their last three games, including two 4-6-3 (Wood-Cardoza Oquendo-Hastings) twin-killings Wednesday. Earlier, third baseman Noah Menchaca saved a run by diving to his right and catching a two-out liner before it whistled down the leftfield line. The Bulldogs are riding a big wave toward post-season play.
Navarro’s 13-batter, seven-run fourth inning chased starter Tyler Navarro from the game. Orlando started it with a one-out infield single on a 3-2 pitch. He scored on Bechtold’s wind-blown triple into the rightfield corner. Noah Menchaca kept the barrage firing with a single to left that plated Bechtold. Matt Wood and Derek Mueller followed with singles and Cardoza-Oquendo slapped a two-run single to right.
Following walks to Holt and Ragan that loaded the bases, Hastings was hit by lefthander Jackson Rutledge’s 1-0 pitch. Orlando recycled another single in his second at bat of the frame, bringing home Holt.
Navarro and Northeast will conclude their weekend series with a 1 pm doubleheader Saturday at Eagle Field in Mount Pleasant.