Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

May 31, 2013

NC Baseball: Colorado magic eluded Bulldogs

Graduation will hit Navarro hard

By Todd Wills
Special to the Daily Sun

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Navarro Bulldogs had a few extra days in Colorado after being eliminated from the JUCO World Series. Travel delays will get you sometimes.

Even with a 1-2 record in Grand Junction, it was a well deserved few more days together for coach Whoa Dill and his team.

Maybe a tiny town outside of Grand Junction says it best, Grand Mesa. Navarro baseball is on top of the junior college baseball grand mesa these days.

The Bulldogs have won 128 games in the last three years. That’s an average of 43 wins a season. They’ve made two trips to the JUCO World Series. They have a national title from the 2011 season.

Navarro didn’t pitch or play defense as well as it did during their 44-win season in its two losses in Grand Junction. The Bulldogs scored nine runs in each of the two games they lost to Connors State and Palm Beach State.

If Dill had been promised that before the double elimination tournament started, he would have guaranteed — in three inch headlines — that the Bulldogs would still be playing in the World Series.

 “It’s part of baseball,” Dill said. “Anybody can beat anybody. It didn’t happen for us. I’m just excited we made it. I still feel like we’re the best team. Our pitching wasn’t how it was all year.

“If I had known we had been scoring like that, I would have said we would still be there.”

The Bulldogs had a three-run lead on Palm Beach State going into the eighth inning Wednesday, but lost in 10 innings. The Panthers will play in Saturday’s national championship game against the Central Alabama-Cochise winner.

Navarro had one starter last six innings in a game — Gage Curry in the lone win against Walters State. The bullpen was taxed throughout, and with closer Blake Griffin unavailable in Monday’s 15-9 loss to Palm Beach, the Bulldogs simply ran out of pitching.

“Our pitching didn’t get us into games that much,” Dill said. “Our pitchers hadn’t thrown that many innings. But they were tired. They pitched their hearts out, but didn’t get it done.”

Navarro has 13 sophomores signed with Division I programs.

Dill will have to rebuild a pitching staff that loses all four starters and its closer. There is one scholarship left and that will likely go to a hitter.

Only position players Jovan Hernandez, Grayson Lewis and J.P. Phillips return. Hernandez is the likely heir apparent at catcher and Lewis will be at third base.

Dill is excited about his group of incoming freshman players, led by Corsicana pitcher Holden Grounds, who recently switched from Texas State to Navarro.

“We have a bunch of good arms,” Dill said. “We have to find another hitter.”