GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. —
The comeback Navarro Bulldogs fell a run short Saturday night in their opening game the JUCO World Series.
The Bulldogs fought back from four-run and six-run deficits, but couldn’t make it all the way back in a 10-9 loss to Connors State (Okla.) in a first-round game at Suplizio Field.
Navarro will have to win the tournament the hard way, going through the loser’s bracket. First up is an elimination game against Walters State (Tenn.) at 3 p.m. Texas time.
There’s no reason to believe that Navarro can’t do what Iowa Western did last year, losing the first game and winning the national championship.
“Why not?” Navarro coach Whoa Dill said.
Navarro, which tied the game after trailing 4-0, fell behind 10-4 after six innings and needed one more rally. The Bulldogs, who won their final three games at the Region XIV Tournament in come-from-behind fashion, can never be counted out.
The Bulldogs scored three runs in the top of the seventh to cut Connors State lead in half. Kaleb Goodell walked with one out. Drake Roberts followed with a triple up the right-center field alley that scored Goodell to cut the lead to 10-5. John Clay Reeves followed with a sacrifice fly to center field for a 10-6 game.
Navarro kept the pressure up. Tyler Wilson had a two-out double and Byron Reichstein followed with a single up the middle to cut the lead to 10-7.
J.D. Hammer, who had entered the game in the sixth inning, pitched a perfect seventh inning to get the Bulldogs back to the plate.
Designated hitter Jovan Hernandez, who had been on base all three times, ripped a single to center field to start the top of the eighth. Mason Salazar followed with a terrific at-bat, just missing two doubles inside the left field line before lashing a double to left-center field to cut the lead to 10-8.
After Kevin Meredith struck out, Kaleb Goodell had an RBI single to left field to make it 10-9 Connors State. Goodell went to second on a poor throw home. Drake Roberts then flew out to center field, setting up the most dramatic moment in the game.
Navarro catcher John Clay Reeves lashed a line drive to right-center field that looked off the bat like a sure double to tie the game. But Cowboys center fielder Christian Perez, who had already made one spectacular catch, made a sliding catch and was able to hold the ball in the end of his glove for the third out.
“I thought we were going to tie the game in the eighth,” Dill said. “I was glad the way we battled back.”
Hammer pitched another scoreless inning, giving the Bulldogs one last chance. But all three Navarro batters flew out to center field to end the game.
The Bulldogs fell behind by two or more runs for the fourth straight game, this time trailing 4-0 after four innings.
But Navarro tied the game in the top of the fifth. Reichstein started the inning with a single and Grayson Lewis walked. Hernandez doubled off the left-field wall to make it 4-1. Mason Salazar followed with an RBI ground out to cut the lead to 4-2. Goodell and Roberts completed the rally with RBI singles to tie the game at 4-4.
It was the first two of two big rallies for the Bulldogs. The second one just came up short.
JUCO World Series
Connors State 10, Navarro 9
Navarro 000 040 320 — 9 11 1
Connors St. 102 133 00x — 10 12 1
WP — Kelvin Rivas
LP — Lukas Schiraldi
Sv — Justin Ferrell
Top hitters — N: Kaleb Goodell 2-4 (2 RBIs, 2 runs, SB), Drake Roberts 2-5 (3B, 2 RBIs, run), Tyler Wilson 1-5 (2B, run), Byron Reichstein 2-5 (RBI, run), Jovan Hernandez 3-3 (2-2Bs, RBI, 2 runs), Mason Salazar 1-4 (2B, 2 RBIs, run). CS: Christian Perez 2-5 (2B, run), Korey Keith 3-3 (RBI, 3 runs, BB), Yariel Gonzales 2-4 (2B, 3B, 4 RBIs, run), Dalton Daniels 3-4 (2 runs).
Records — Navarro 43-16, Connors State 53-9.