GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Third-ranked Walters State rallied with two home runs in the ninth inning to force extra innings in Thursday's elimination game against Central Arizona in the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series at Sam Suplizio Field, but the Vaqueros exploded in the 10th inning to advance to the national championship game.
Central Arizona had just six hits in the first nine innings of the game, but blew the game open with seven runs and seven hits in the final inning to grab a 12-5 victory over the Senators to end the year for Walters State.
It was just the second time these two teams had met, with the Vaqueros coming out on top in the first meeting also. Central Arizona won the previous matchup at the 2008 World Series, 10-5, in an elimination game as well.
With the win, the Vaqueros improved to 49-20 on the year, and they will await the result of the late game between No. 9 Iowa Western (51-9) and No. 15 Navarro (40-17) to see who they face in the national championship game.
An Iowa Western win would put the Vaqueros and Reivers both in the national championship game on Friday at 7 p.m. Mountain Time, with Central Arizona needing to defeat Iowa Western Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. to win its third national title.
A Navarro win would set up a rematch between the Bulldogs and Iowa Western on Friday, with the winner facing Central Arizona in the national championship game on Saturday night. The Vaqueros have played five games this week, compared to four each for the Reivers and Navarro, so they get the automatic bid into the title game while the other two teams will battle for the other spot.
The loss brought an end to the season for the Senators with a 54-11 record and a tie for third place in the World Series, the third top-three finish in the last five years for Coach Dave Shelton's program.
The Vaqueros took an early lead in the first inning without the benefit of a hit, as Liam Spence walked to lead off the game, stole second, took third on a fly ball and scored on a wild pitch to make it a 1-0 lead. WSCC starting pitcher Alex Haynes struck out two batters in the frame.
Drew Haynie singled up the middle to begin the home half of the first for the Senators, and Jerry Hammons reached on an error to put two runners on base. Haynie was picked off at second base by Central Arizona staring pitcher Dakota Donovan, who struck out the next two batters to end the inning with the Vaqueros up 1-0.
Haynes got a pop up for the first out of the second inning before Josh Dudden doubled down the left field line to put a runner in scoring position. Haynes responded with a pair of strikeouts to end the threat, and Donovan worked a perfect bottom half with a grounder and two strikeouts to send it to the third with the same score intact.
Haynes went 1-2-3 in the third on just nine pitches, getting a pair of fly outs before striking out Clayton Keyes to bring the Senators back to the plate. Xavier Arnette singled to center with one out in the frame, but Haynie struck out and was called for interference when Arnette stole second, ending the inning.
Ernny Ordonez led off the top of the fourth with a solo homer to right-center, padding the lead for the Vaqueros. Haynes rebounded with a pair of strikeouts before Dudden drew a two-out walk, but another strikeout ended the inning with the score 2-0.
Donovan struck out Hammons and got Hodge to fly out in the fourth before Brayden Combs hammered an opposite field solo homer over the left field walk to cut the deficit in half, 2-1, after four complete.
Jake Meyer led off the top of the fifth with a single to center for Central Arizona, and Ian Raidy reached on an error to put two on with no outs. Both runners advanced 90 feet on a deep fly ball by Spence, and Keyes followed with a two-run single to center to make it a 4-1 lead. Keyes stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Haynes recorded a strikeout to strand him 90 feet from the plate.
Donovan retired the first two batters of the bottom of the fifth before Mason Streater singled to right, Arnette followed with a single to left and Haynie walked to load the bases, but Hammons struck out swinging to end the inning.
Hunter Jump was hit by a pitch to open the sixth inning, and Dudden was hit by a pitch before Jack Collins came on in relief of Haynes. Both runners moved up on a passed ball, and Brennan Repack lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score another run. Meyer then walked to put runners on the corners, and Meyer moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Raidy before Spence flew out to end the threat.
Combs belted a one-out solo homer to right in the bottom of the sixth, his 17th round tripper of the year, and Braydon Runion followed with a single before a pop up put the second out on the board. Runion stole second, but he was stranded there, leaving the score 5-2 after six.
Ordonez blooped a single to right with one out in the seventh for the Vaqueros and moved to second on a grounder and third on a balk before Collins retired the final batter to leave him on the bases.
Arnette sliced a single to right field for his third hit of the game with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Haynie flew out and Hammons struck out swinging to leave it 5-2 heading to the eighth.
Collins worked a quick perfect inning in the top of the eighth, as did Donovan in the home half to keep the three-run lead going into the ninth. Spence singled to center with one out in the ninth, but Collins got Keyes to ground into a double play to bring the half-inning to an end.
Michael Robinson smoked a leadoff double to open the bottom of the ninth, and Austin Bibb pinch hit for Bland and hammered a two-run homer off the top of the scoreboard in right-center to pull the Senators within a run.
Lucas Knowles replaced Donovan on the mound after Bibb's monster blast, and he got Streater to line out to right before fanning Arnette for the second out. Down to his final strike, Drew Haynie homered to center to tie it at 5, and the game went into extra innings, the first extra-inning game of the World Series.
Ordonez led off the 10th with a single up the middle against Collins, and Zach Hogueisson did the same to put a pair of runners on. Blake Petty entered the game on the mound, and Jump blooped a single to center to load the bases with no outs. A dropped pop fly led to a fielder's choice, as Robinson gunned down the runner at the plate, but Petty hit Brennan Reback with a pitch before Zebulon Matthews relieved him and allowed an RBI single to Meyer to make it a two-run lead. Raidy reached on an error to bring in another run, and Spence drove in a run with a base hit but Streater threw out Meyer at the plate for the second out. Keyes followed with a two-run single and scored on a double by Ordonez before Bubba Hubbard took over on the mound and got a strikeout to end the big inning.
Hodge led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, but Combs lined into a double play at first base to put two outs on the board. Runion then struck out to end the game, and the season for the Senators.