Preview: Bulldogs test 2-time champion Chipola

Preview: Bulldogs test 2-time champion Chipola

By MIKE MONTFORT —

GRAND JUNCTION, Co — Navarro and Chipola square off in the second game of The Alpine Bank JUCO World Series on Saturday.

The Bulldogs challenge the two-time champion Indians with hopes of using it as a springboard toward a great week of play in the double-elimination tournament.

Saturday’s winner advances to a 7:30 MT game Monday against the winner of the Walters State-Cowley, Ks., tournament opener.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of the noon Saturday matchup between Navarro and Chipola:

SOUTHERN v GULF
No. 15 Navarro (38-16) v No. 16 Chipola (38-18)
NC: Batting – .289/.403 /.433 |  33 HR   |  392 Runs.
NC: Pitching – 428.1 IP |  0 CG  |   13 Sv   |  3.95 ERA
CC: Batting – .299/.403/.421 |  35 HR  |  387 Runs.
CC: Pitching – 414.1 IP  |   3 CG  |   13 Sv   |  4.71 ERA

NAVARRO – Coach Matt Podjenski’s Southern District Champions from Region XIV bring a nine-game winning streak to GJ, including an unbeaten run of four games through the Region XIV Tournament. NC scored 43 runs and belted 49 hits in 31 tournament innings, thanks to two run-rule victories. In 25 games this season, the Bulldogs have scored eight or more runs, with double-digit scoring in 17. Navarro, hitting .289, is led offensively by Eastern Conference Player of The Year Cash Rugely at SS, 3B Stacey Bailey, 1B Kyle Landers, DH Jose Gonzalez and C Dawson Woods. Rugely, with a team-best .406/.497/.618, tops the club in hits (67) and runs scored (52). Bailey leads NC with 64 RBI – 22 coming with two-out. Landers (.324) leads in stolen bases and walks. Gonzalez, a Texas Tech transfer, and Woods have been hot down the stretch – providing clutch hits in big situations. On a run of 19 wins in their last 22 games dating to April 1, the Bulldogs have been getting major contributions from all sources. Unbeaten LHP Carson Rollins (7-0, 2.57), RH Austin Faith (6-2) and Ryan Johnston (4-2) form the starting nucleus, with a strong bullpen featuring Collin Storms (6 wins), Colin Wyman (2.25 ERA), Tanner Riley (2 Svs, .190 BAA) and single-season save leader Pepper Jones (9, with 43 Ks in 26 innings). The Bulldogs are 4-4 in one-run games, with 3 wins coming since April 21.

CHIPOLA – Switch-hitting, clean-up batting 2B Ivan Johnson, SS Joshua Rivera and 3B Julio Carrion are considered draftable talents in a very formidable Indian lineup that includes six sophomores who were part of coach Jeff Johnson’s 2018 championship team. The hottest hitter over the last five games emerging from the Gulf Tournament is sophomore CF Connor Kehl, who went 11-for-21 with 2 HR and 9 RBI. Leadoff-hitting sophomore CF Jordan Anderson hits .296 and has stolen a team-high 20 bases. Chipola’s usual top four in the batting order have double-digit steal totals. Chipola got 34 starts from lefthanders on its predominantly freshman staff. Southpaws Cameron Gray (5-2, 3.83 with 2 CG in 11 starts), Parker Pillsbury (4-1 in 12 starts), Jacob Smith (4-3) and Robert Bennett (3-0) head that group, with RH Andrew Baker (2-1, 7 saves) in the closer role. The Indians split regular-season non-conference games in February with two JUCO qualifiers – beating Walters State 2-1 on February 1 and losing to Chattahoochee Valley 6-4 one week later. Chipola, which won six of nine games it played against Northwest Florida State this season, mounted a 12-game winning streak during March. The Indians are 8-2 in one-run games.