The Navarro Bulldogs won the 2011 JUCO World Series the way most baseball championships are won.
With a deep pitching staff. An unsung hero. Great defense.
And a defining moment, catcher J.T. Files’ walkoff home run in the national championship game.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 1 by PerfectGame.com and No. 2 in the final NJCAA National Poll, are back in Grand Junction and looking for their second national title in three years.
Knowing what it takes to win the week-long tournament, and using 2011 as a guide, here’s how the Bulldogs can win it all again.
Deep pitching staff
It’s arguable that this year’s Navarro team has a deeper staff than 2011, and Bulldogs coach Whoa Dill believes his pitching will be the best in Grand Junction.
Navarro had three solid starters in 2011 — Tyler Mapes, who had to fight through getting sick in the tournament opener, Austin Pruitt and Tyler Carter. Closer Justin Thomas came up huge at the World Series, getting a clutch save against Chipola in a 3-2 victory.
This year’s Bulldogs have a deeper quartet of sophomore starters with 10-game winner Lukas Schiraldi, nine-game winner Gage Curry and two-year rotation stalwarts Chad Young and Zach Hobbs. All four are Division I signees.
The bullpen is loaded starting with regional tournament star Blake Griffin, who has 11 saves. It doesn’t end there. J.D. Hammer is as talented as any pitcher on the staff and Jack Moffitt can throw multiple innings. Clint Wilson, another big talent, may able to pitch in Grand Junction. Jovan Hernandez can pitch. Curry and Young can pitch out of the bullpen.
“We’re deeper and older,” Navarro coach Whoa Dill said. “I like the back end of the bullpen better. They’re close, but I think this one is deeper.”