By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. —
The Cardiac Bulldogs were back at it Sunday at the JUCO World Series.
This time in survival mode. `
The Bulldogs scored two runs in the top of the 10th, then got a huge three-out save from freshman right-hander Jack Moffitt to hang on for a 7-5 victory over Walters State (Tenn.) in an elimination game on Sunday afternoon at Suplizio Field.
Navarro (44-16) advances to play Palm Beach State at 11 a.m. Texas time in another win-or-go home game in Grand Junction.
"It was a great game," Navarro coach Whoa Dill said. "If you were a fan, it was a great game to watch. We were resilient again."
Sunday's game was a classic in which both teams played tremendous baseball. Walter State proved an impossible foil for the Bulldogs to put away, four times rallying to tie the game. The Senators also played incredible defense, the topper a diving catch by left fielder Matt Harrell that robbed Byron Reichstein of a two-run double and the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead in the top of the ninth.
Instead, Navarro took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth with closer Blake Griffin back on the mound for a third inning. Griffin, dealing with a sore arm, gave up back-to-back doubles Chris Hipchen and Jake Farr to cut the lead to 5-4. After Griffin got the first out on a strikeout, the Senators' Michael Allen tied the game with a single to right field.
Griffin had to get Navarro to the 10th inning still tied. Harrell flew out to center field for the second out. Then Senators cleanup hitter Jared Allen, who had six hits on Saturday, produced his first hit against Navarro, a sharply hit ball into right-center field. Reichstein got to the ball quickly and fired the ball back into second base, forcing Allen to stop at third base. What followed was a huge break as Allen kept going to second base and shortstop Mason Salazar was able to tag him for the third out, sending the game into extra innings.
"The guy thought it was a double all the way," Dill said. "It could have gone either way. Byron has a great arm. It's one of those plays you have to make."
The Bulldogs took the game in the top of the 10th. Grayson Lewis and Jovan Hernandez opened the inning with walks against Senators reliever Tyler Brosius. Mason Salazar then laced a single to left field and Lewis, who had to leap over the ball near third base, slid in head first at home plate for a 6-5 lead. Kaleb Goodell followed with an infield RBI single for a 7-5 lead.
Moffitt then shut the door, replacing Griffin and dominating the Senators with his fastball. He worked around a one-out single, getting two ground balls to end the game. The last out came on a sharply hit ground ball to third base with Lewis gloving it and making the throw across the diamond to keep Navarro's season alive.
The Bulldogs scored single runs in the second, fourth and sixth innings, taking a one-run lead each time. Reichstein, Lewis and Hernandez all had RBI singles.
But the Senators kept fighting back against Navarro starter Gage Curry, who pitched six gallant innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits. Walters State did tie the game all three times, the last on a home run by Reid Matthews to make it 3-3 after six innings.
Navarro scored two runs in the top of the seventh to seemingly take control of the game. Goodell had a one-out single, setting up Roberts to drive in the go-ahead run with a double to left field. The Bulldogs added what seemed like a crucial insurance run on a single by Tyler Wilson.
But no lead was safe, even though Griffin was able to get through the seventh and eighth innings.
The Bulldogs' showed their bullpen depth as Moffitt finished the game off for Griffin, a classic ending for a classic game.
"Moffitt was unbelievable," Dill said. "He came out throwing hard."