GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO
The good times keep rolling at Sam Suplizio Field for Iowa Western Baseball. Down five runs after 4 innings, 'Team 45' (51-9, 3-0 JUCO) kept battling against #3 Walters State (54-10, 2-1 JUCO) to rally for an 11-8 come from behind win in Game 15 of the 2019 NJCAA Division 1 JUCO World Series.
The Reivers staked themselves to an early lead when Caleb Balgaard and Gibson Krzeminski each scored after reaching on 1st inning base hits. Balgaard crossed the plate when Greg Bennett walked with the bases loaded, while Krzeminski came in on an RBI single by Isaiah Peterson. Peterson's single chased Walters State starter Corey Stone after just 1/3 of an inning pitched. Reliever Andrew Lindsey promptly induced a double-play grounder to escape the inning, with the Senators down just 2-0. Reiver starting pitcher Jared Simpson cruised through his first two innings of work, striking out four while allowing just one hit.
In the 3rd inning, the Reivers offense got it going again when three straight batters reached to load the bases for the second time in the game. An RBI groundout by Bennett scored Balgaard but was the only tally of the inning as the Senators struck out the final two Reiver batters. IWCC left four runners on in the first three innings of play, all in scoring position. Walters State would strike back in their half as the Reivers allowed the inning to proceed on a pair of errors. Simpson induced two ground outs to start the inning, the second of which was a less than routine play to 3rd baseman Ross Indlecoffer. Indlecoffer charged a ball on the grass hit by WSCC centerfielder Xavier Arnette and erased the speedy runner for the 2nd out on a ball he nearly fielded barehanded. With two down, Leadoff hitter Drew Haynie then hit an easy chopper that ticked off the top of the glove of the Reiver sophomore third baseman into the outfield. Simpson then walked Jerry Hammons to put runners at 1st and 2nd but then induced another routine bouncing ball to 2nd base. This time the ball went off the glove of 2nd baseman Colin Kasperbauer to score the first run of the game for Walters State. Clean-up hitter Braydon Runion then smacked a double to score Hammons and designated hitter Brayden Combs cleared the bases with a 3-run homer to left. In all, Walters State scored 5 unearned runs on just 2 hits and took a 3-run lead into the 4th.
Lindsey, the Senators reliever, held the Reivers scoreless in both the 4th and 5th innings. The same could not be said for Walters State, as they added a 2-run homer with 2-outs in the bottom of the 4th after scoring another run on an RBI-double to increase their lead to 8-3. The inning was once again prolonged by a Reiver error and all 8 runs on the home side were scored unearned. Alex Firsdon was called out of the Reiver bullpen to close the inning down, striking out the first Senator batter he faced.
With Firsdon helping to quiet Walters State's offense and plenty of baseball left to play, Iowa Western went to work cutting into the lead in the 6th. Kasperbauer hammered a lead-off single while the defense of Walters State finally had a breakdown on a potential double-play grounder to 2nd baseman Jerry Hammons. Hammons tried for a sweep toss to shortstop Michael Robinson, only to leave the ball on the dirt. The misplay allowed Cooper Bowman to reach 1st base, while Kasperbauer slid into 2nd safely. Gibson Krzeminski then drew a 1-out walk to load the bases and Ronald Sweeny III stroked a sac fly to deep center to score Kasperbauer and plate the Reivers' 4th run of the game. With 2 on and 2 out, Greg Bennett smashed a ball to the high left field wall to score Bowman and Krzeminski. Senators left fielder Mason Streater played the ball perfectly off the carom and threw a strike to get Bennett at 2nd base to end the inning with the Reivers still trailing 8-6. Firsdon, who had worked out of a jam in the 5th, battled in the 6th after allowing a walk and a single to begin the bottom half. He struck out WSCC's 3 and 4 hitters on 3-2 counts and covered the bag beautifully on a 3-1 putout to end the threat with two Walters State runners in scoring position.
Headed into the stretch, Iowa Western would score another run in a relatively quiet top half as Ross Indlecoffer sent a shot down the left field line that stayed fair to cut the Senators' lead to 1. Firsdon then worked a 1,2,3 inning in the bottom half, picking up two more strikeouts, to send the game to the 8th with the home team on top 8-7.
A 2-out single by Krzeminski was all the Reivers could manage in the top of the 8th, but Walters State was again held at bay in the bottom half. Brandon Doty relieved Firsdon to start the inning and struck Xavier Arnette out looking before hitting Drew Haynie with a pitch. Isaiah Peterson fell to his knees to make a catch deep in center for the second out of the inning. WIth Bryce Hodge at the plate, Mason Speirs picked Haynie off first base on a snap throw to Sweeny for the inning's final out.
The Reivers hadn't been able to fully solve Walters State reliever Kody Davidson in the previous 3 innings. The Tennessee recruit hit as high as 95mph on the radar gun and allowed only 3 Reiver hits after coming in to close the 6th inning. The top of the 9th started no differently as he quickly worked an 0-2 count to Reiver DH Greg Bennett. The 3rd pitch of the at-bat changed the complexion of the game as Davidson hit Bennett with the pitch to put the leadoff hitter aboard. Isaiah Peterson then worked a walk before Ross Indlecoffer was plunked to load the bases with no outs. Head Coach Marc Rardin then called to the bench for a pinch-hitter in Mason Speirs' spot in the order. Freshman Jevon Mason, who hadn't seen game action since April 29th, promptly delivered a 2-run single to right that scored Bennett and Peterson to give the Reivers a 9-8 lead. Another pinch-hitter would follow, as Jaden Rolffs batted for Kasperbauer. Rolffs singled to left to score Indlecoffer as the Reivers added insurance to their late lead. Two batters later, after a ground-out and wild pitch had moved Rolffs to 3rd base, Caleb Balgaard hit a flyball to right to score the 4th run of the inning. A flyout to left ended the inning, but not before the Reivers had stormed back for an 11-8 lead on just two hits in the inning. NJCAA saves leader Trystan Kimmel was called out of the bullpen in the bottom half of the 9th and slammed the door, striking out Senators RBI leader Brayden Combs to end the game.
Brandon Doty earned the win with 13 pitches in the 8th, while Kimmel picked up his 18th save of the season with just 12 pitches. Gibson Krzeminski went 3-5 and scored a pair of runs, while Greg Bennett drove in 4 more runs and now has 10 RBI in the tournament, 1/4 of his total season output in just 3 games.
The win moves the Reivers into an 8:30 PM CST match-up with Navarro out of Corsicana, Texas in Game 17 of the JUCO World Series.
All action from the Reivers run at the 2019 JUCO World Series can be heard on Iowa Western's FM radio station, 89.7 the River. The station streams for free, worldwide, at www.897theRiver.com.
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