By Todd Wills
Special to the Corsicana Daily Sun
The Navarro Bulldogs are riding another Colorado Rocky Mountain high.
Navarro earned its second trip in three years to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., fighting back to beat Alvin 4-2 on Tuesday at Roadrunner Park in Lufkin.
Navarro rallied for the third straight game from an early deficit and finished the Region XIV Tournament with a 4-0 record. The Bulldogs earned their second regional title by coming back from deficits of 2-0, 4-0 and again 2-0 on Tuesday.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Navarro coach Whoa Dill said. “I can’t say enough about these guys. They showed determination and never got down on themselves when we fell behind. They stayed focused and we’re going back to Grand Junction."
It was the same old story for Navarro against Alvin. The Bulldogs beat the Dolphins to win the 2011 Region XIV title for the school’s first trip to Grand Junction. Navarro went 5-1 to win the JUCO World Series, beating Central Arizona in the national championship game.
The Bulldogs had too many heroes to mention this time around, but it was fitting that closer Blake Griffin was on the mound in the bottom of the ninth, pitching for the third straight day. He got a ground ball that he field between the mound and home plate to end the game.
“The trainers did a great job of getting me ready,” Griffin said. “There’s no way I wasn’t going to take the ball today.”
Alvin beat San Jacinto 4-3 on a walkoff double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in Tuesday’s first game to get into the championship round.
Using the momentum from that game, and knowing they had to beat Navarro twice to get to Grand Junction, the Dolphins scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-0 lead.
Alvin took advantage of an error, a balk and a passed ball in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead. Dolphins left fielder Zach Gibson scored on a ground out to second by Jack Kaiser.
Alvin took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth on a leadoff double by Rick Nomura and an RBI single by designated hitter Anthony Quiller.
Navarro responded in the top of the sixth to take the lead. The Bulldogs had four hits off Alvin side-winding starter Bryson Mitchell, but couldn’t break through in the first five innings. But leadoff hitter Kaleb Goodell led off the sixth inning with a single and the Bulldogs built off that.
They actually got two quick outs after Goodell's hit. But Tyler Wilson started the two-out rally with a single to put runners on first and second.
Byron Reichstein followed with a single up the middle cutting the Alvin lead to 2-1. Wilson then scored from third base on a passed ball, getting a great read as the baseball went through Alvin catcher Brian Valencia’s legs.
“I just took off,” Wilson said. “We needed that tying run.”
The Bulldogs took the lead when third baseman Grayson Lewis hit a flair over Alvin second baseman Cole Coakley’s glove, scoring Reichstein for a 3-2 lead.
Starter Zach Hobbs then produced a shutdown inning, working around a two-out walk and single. Hobbs got Dolphins right fielder J.C. Cantu, who had the walkoff double against San Jacinto, to line out to shortstop to end the inning.
The Bulldogs’ bullpen, with the help of an insurance run on an RBI double by Wilson, finished off the game. Freshman J.D. Hammer pitched two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth innings, working around a base runner in each inning.
That left it up to Griffin, who had thrown five innings in Sunday’s 13-inning win over Paris, and the eighth inning in Monday’s 15-13 thriller against San Jac.
Griffin got a ground out to first and a fly ball to center field for the first two outs. He then hit Quiller with a fastball, to bring up the tying run. Griffin responded as a closer does, getting a weak ground ball back in front of the plate.
He flipped the ball to first baseman Wilson and what followed was a dog pile in front of the pitcher’s mound.
The Bulldogs are going back to Grand Junction.
Navarro 4, Alvin 2
Navarro 000 003 010 — 4 10 1
Alvin 000 110 000 — 2 5 1
WP — Zach Hobbs
LP — Bryson Mitchell
Sv — Blake Griffin (11)
Top hitters — Navarro: Kaleb Goodell 1-4 (run), Drake Roberts 1-4, John Clay Reeves 2-4 (run), Tyler Wilson 2-5 (2B, RBI), Byron Reichstein 2-4 (RBI, run), Grayson Lewis 2-4 (2B, RBI); Alvin: Zach Gibson 1-4 (RBI), Rick Nomura 1-4 (2B, run), Anthony Quiller 1-3 (RBI).
Records — Navarro 43-15, Alvin 37-22.