GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Chipola College battled through five elimination games to get to the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series championship game against No. 1 ranked Walters State, and Saturday night, they completed an improbable comeback.
The Indians became just the fifth team in the 61-year history of the tournament to lose in the opening round and come back to win the national championship, as they knocked off the Senators, 10-7, in front of 10,107 fans at Sam Suplizio Field.
In just the sixth matchup of teams that met in the opening round and went on to play in the title game, the Indians rallied from a 5-2 deficit with a four-run fifth inning and a three-run sixth to take command before holding off Walters State in the closing innings to claim their second straight national title and third overall by winning for the third time in five tries against the Senators this season.
The loss denied Walters State (60-8) its second national title and first since 2006, and it was also the first time this season the Senators had lost two games in a row after falling to the Indians (49-17) Thursday night. Chipola then beat No. 6 San Jacinto-North on Friday night 11-0 in five innings before claiming the title Saturday night.
Edmond Americaan led off the game with a base hit for the Indians but was cut down at second when Francisco Urbaez reached on a fielder's choice. Morgan McCullough followed with a double into the left-center gap off Walters State starting pitcher Peyton Alford, scoring Urbaez from first, but McCullough was caught trying to stretch the hit into a triple Alford struck out Max Guzman to close the top half of the first, with Chipola leading 1-0.
Jack Dellinger drew the start on the rubber for the Indians, and he struck out leadoff hitter Dylan Harris before walking Logan Carey on five pitches. Hunter Wolfe fouled out down the right field line for the second out of the frame, and Austin Henry worked a full count before popping up a single to center that scored Carey from first base to knot the score. Duncan Pence added a single to put two runners on base, and both runners moved int scoring position on a wild pitch before Dellinger struck out Tyler Gentry to end the threat with the game tied at 1.
Alford worked a perfect second inning with a pair of fly balls to center before getting a strikeout to end the frame, and the Senators went back to work at the plate in the home half. Landon Knack reached on an error on the first pitch of the inning, and Hunter Gilliland followed with a no-doubt, two-run homer to left, putting the Senators on top. After a strikeout, Harris and Carey both singled, ending the night for Dellinger in favor of Andrew Grogan, who got Wolfe to ground into a fielder's choice for the second out the inning before Henry grounded out to end the frame with a 3-1 WSCC lead.
Alford walked leadoff man Jordan Hollins to begin the third inning, but Gilliland caught him stealing before Alford struck out the next two batters to keep the lead at two runs.
Pence led off the bottom of the third with an infield single, but Gentry rolled into a double play to clear the bags. Knack struck out to end the inning, with the lead still 3-1.
The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the to of the fourth, as Alford walked two batters before Guzman singled to left to fill the bags. Jordan Howell drove home Urbaez with a sacrifice fly to center, and Alex Webb advanced the other two runners into scoring position with a grounder to second for the second out of the frame. Gilliland picked off Guzman at second to end the inning, but Chipola had cut the margin to 3-2.
Luke Berryhill singled with one out in the fourth, and Harris followed with another single to put two one base. Carey flew out to center deep enough to allow Berryhill to advance to third, and Harris stole second before Wolfe singled in both runners to pad the margin to 5-2. Henry added a double to left, putting two runners in scoring position again, but Grogan struck out Pence to end the frame.
Julio Carrion reached on an error to begin the top of the fifth, but Hollins lined into a double play, as Pence snared the line drive at third and tossed across the diamond to double off Carrion. David Meadows walked on four pitches with two outs, but Americaan struck out to end the inning.
Grogan worked a quick fifth inning with two strikeouts and a fly ball to retire the Senators in order, and Urbaez and McCullough both walked to lead off the top half of the sixth for the Indians. Guzman followed with an RBI double off the wall in left field, and Hayden Lehman came on in relief of Alford following the two-bagger.
Lehman walked Howell, the first batter he faced, on a full count before getting Webb to fly out to short left for the first out of the inning. Lehman then struck out Carrion for the second out, but Hollins came through with a two-run single to knot the score. A wild pitch moved Hollins to second, and Meadows singled in Howell to give the Indians their first lead at 6-5. Americaan grounded out the second to end the inning with two runners left on the base paths.
Berryhill was hit by a pitch to begin the home half of the sixth, but Harris grounded into a double play moments later. Carey then belted a fastball deep over the wall in left-center for his fourth homer of the year to tie the game at 6 heading into the seventh.
Lehman got a fly ball for the first out of the seventh before McCullough and Guzman both singled to put two runners on base, and both moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Howell reached on an infield single that plated McCullough to put Chipola back on top. Lehman struck Webb out looking, but Carrion smoked a two-run double to to the gap in right-center to make it a 9-6 lead. Hollins struck out to end the inning.
Howell moved to the mound to begin the bottom of the seventh inning for the Indians, and Henry took the second pitch he delivered midway up in the left-centerfield bleachers to trim a run off the deficit on his 11th round tripper of the campaign. Pence was robbed of a base hit when Meadows slipped and fell to the turf in left field but still made a spectacular catch for the first out of the inning, but Howell then walked Gentry on four pitches. Gentry moved up to second on a grounder by Drew Haynie, and Gilliland popped to short to end the inning with the score 9-7.
Lehman caught Meadows looking at strike three to begin the eighth, but Americaan followed with a solo homer to right on a full count to extend the lead to 10-7. Gage Gillian came on in relief for the Senators, and he struck out Urbaez looking before getting McCullough to go down swinging to end the half-inning.
Phillip Sanderson entered on the mound for the Indians and struck out the side in the eighth before Gillian worked another scoreless frame in the ninth. Sanderson then fanned two batters before getting Pence to ground out to third to end the game and give the Indians their third national crown.
Guzman led Chipola with three hits, while Americaan, McCullough and Howell each added two hits in the win. Grogan (9-2) picked up the win in relief after giving up three earned runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Sanderson recorded the save after two spotless innings of relief.
Henry had three hits in the loss for the Senators, while Harris, Carey and Pence each added a pair of hits in the contest. Lehman (13-4) was saddled with the loss after allowing five earned runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings of relief. Alford scattered four hits and allowed five earned runs in five-plus innings of work.
The Senators ended the season with quite a few records, including most runs scored in a season (737), most regular season wins (50), most strikeouts in a season by the team (637), team hits in a season (779) and team triples in a season (30). They also fell just one win shy of matching the 2006 national championship team's win total of 61.