By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. —
The Navarro Bulldogs played on the edge the entire postseason.
It finally caught up to them Monday at the JUCO World Series.
The Bulldogs rallied from another early deficit and led 9-6 headed to the eighth inning, then watched as Palm Beach State pulled off a comeback that had been reserved for Navarro. The Panthers tied the game in the eighth and scored six runs in the top of the 10th, beating Navarro 15-9 in an elimation game in Grand Junction.
Navarro finished the season with a 44-17, making their second trip in three seasons to the Junior College World Series. The Bulldogs won the national championship in 2011.
Navarro appeared poised to play another day after a home run barrage helped them overcome a 6-2 deficit and gave them a 9-6 lead after six innings.
The comeback started in the fifth inning when catcher John Clay Reeves, who had collected his first hit of the tournament in the bottom of the first, crushed a home run to straight away center field to cut the Palm Beach lead to 6-3.
After Tyler Wilson flew out, Byron Reichstein doubled and Grayson Lewis smoked a two-run home to left field to make it 6-5.
Navarro took the lead in the bottom of of the sixth. J.P. Phillips and John Clay Reeves had singles, setting up Tyler Wilson, who tied the game with an RBI single to make it 6-6.
Reichstein then gave the Bulldogs a 9-6 with a towering three-run home run over the scoreboard in right center field, creating pandemonium among the Navarro fans.
Navarro turned to the bullpen to hold the lead. J.D. Hammer, who had already pitched five innings of brilliant relief, worked around a single in the top of the seventh.
Hammer started the eighth and had a one-out walk and then allowed an RBI double to Mike Stemle to make it 9-7 Navarro.
Without closer Blake Griffin available, Navarro coach Whoa Dill went to Jack Moffitt, who pitched well to get a save in Sunday's win over Walters State. Two wild pitches, an error and two hits helped Palm Beach tie the game at 9-9.
Navarro failed to score in the eighth or ninth innings as Panthers reliever Joe Larazo put the clamps on the Bulldogs' offense.
Palm Beach broke through for the win in the top of the 10th. Bulldogs ace Lukas Schiraldi, who dominated to get two outs in the ninth inning, allowed a single and walk to bring up Panthers cleanup hitter Ryan Church, who got his fifth hit of the day with towering drive off the wall in center field to score a run and give Palm Beach a 10-9 lead.
The Panthers scored five more runs when center fielder Kaleb Goodell lost a ball in the sun that would have been the final out of the inning. Instead it scored two runs and Palm Beach added insurance to build a six-run lead.
The Bulldogs went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th, ending a promising run at the JUCO World Series.