Bulldogs finish third at JUCO World Series

Bulldogs finish third at JUCO World Series

By MIKE MONTFORT   —

GRAND JUNCTION, Co. — Navarro’s magnificent, memorable march to the pinnacle of The Alpine Bank JUCO World Series ended Friday, but rewarded coach Matt Podjenski’s Bulldogs with a third-place finish.

In an elimination semifinal play-in game, ninth-ranked Iowa Western (52-10) reversed Thursday’s result and run-ruled the Bulldogs in eight innings, 15-7.

Coach Marc Rardin’s Northern District Champion Reivers advanced to their fourth JUCO World Series Final and faced Central Arizona’s Vaqueros  (49-20) for the title in Saturday’s 7 pm MT contest at Sam Suplizio Field.

Navarro, lightly regarded among Texas junior college baseball programs during the spring, concluded a 41-18 season that featured a magical run of 22 wins in their final 27 games (15 of 17 regular-season and 7 of 9 postseason).  The Region XIV Tournament Champion Bulldogs used an awesome power display with their searing bats and stormed their way to 103 runs over those final nine contests that included four run-ruled wins.

During a week-long stay at Grand Junction, the Bulldogs hit .338, scored 61 runs and slugged 14 homers.

On Friday, Iowa Western took charge early against the Bulldogs and freshman lefthanded starter Carson Rollins.  The Reivers chased Rollins after 1.1 innings, and took a comfortable 6-0 lead as third baseman Ross Indlecoffer homered and DH Greg Bennett uncorked a two-run, gap double.

The Reivers led 11-2 in the fifth and were on the brink of ending the game as early as Navarro did Thursday in its 23-8 decision, but the Bulldogs battled back and staved off elimination for three innings.

In the fifth, Navarro cut the lead to five as Wesley Powell scored on a passed ball. The Reivers countered by adding four in the bottom of the frame including a two-run home run by freshman catcher Jaden Rolffs (13).

NJCAA saves leader Trystan Kimmel (18) from Iowa Western came into the game with one out in the fifth, purposed to end the game with little work.

The Bulldogs, however, didn’t allow it to happen that way.

Staring down elimination via the run rule, Navarro plated two runs in the seventh on a two out dropped fly ball by first baseman Ronald Sweeney. In the eighth, the Bulldogs would cut it to four as Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo hit a solo home run (2) and Gonzalez, Jr. drilled a shot to right field, scoring two.

In the non-save situation, Kimmel threw 53 pitches during 1.1 innings and put his availability into question for Saturday night.

Iowa Western would take those runs back, add a few, and end the game on a Gibson Krzeminski RBI single.

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IOWA WESTERN 15, NAVARRO 7 (FINAL, 8 Innings)
SCORE BY INNINGS……………..R-H-E
Navarro…………………….000 110 23 – 7- 7-3
Iowa Western…………….123 140 04 – 15-16-2
W: Brandon Doty. L: Carson Rollins. NC — Rollins, Storms (2); Riley (4); Wyman (6), Mehl (7); Jones (8). IW: McLaughlin, Brandon Doty (5), Kimmel (7).
HR: Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo
TB: Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo 4, Jose Gonzalez, Kyle Hawkins, Wesley Powell, Cash Rugely 3
RBI: Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo, Jose Gonzalez 3
ROE: Stacey Bailey, Jose Gonzalez
FC: Cash Rugely
HBP: Mason Holt