GRAND JUNCTION, Co — Navarro’s 23-8 run-ruled victory Thursday over tournament-unbeaten Iowa Western assured that The Alpine Bank JUCO World Series Championship Game will be played Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (41-17/ 3-1) and the Reivers (51-10, 3-1) will meet again in a 7 pm MT Friday game, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s 7 pm MT championship game against Central Arizona (49-20).
Coach Matt Podjenski’s Bulldogs are looking for Navarro’s second NJCAA Division I Baseball Championship; Coach Marc Rardin’s Reivers are seeking their fourth and Anthony Gilich’s CAC Vaqueros will be bidding for their third JUCO World Series Championship.
Navarro left little doubt Thursday that the JUCO World Series would extend to a possible Game 19 for all the three once-beaten teams.
The Bulldogs dismantled the ninth-ranked Reivers in front of 8,762 fans on Challenger Night.
Leadoff-hitting second baseman Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo went three-for-five, scored four and drove in five runs in the five-inning contest. Cardoza-Oquendo lacked only a home run for a potential cycle, but other teammates took care of that business.
The Bulldogs parlayed home runs from Stacey Bailey, Jose Gonzalez Jr., and Kyle Landers with a miserable performance from six Reiver pitchers that included 13 walks, 1 hit-batsmen and five wild pitches among 166 total pitches.
Gonzalez and Bailey continued their Home Run Derby at Suplizio. They’ve made it their own playpen all week and they hit more tape-measure shots Thursday.
Gonzalez hit his team-leading 12th of the year and his fifth during the tournament with a three-run clout to right field during Navarro’s eight-run fourth inning.
Bailey launched his 11th in orbit over the bleachers and on the golf course in left during Navarro’s six-run second inning. That poke was estimated at 460.
Kyle Landers tacked on a two-run homer and Gonzales contributed a two-run double to finalize the rout with a six-run fifth inning.
Right-hander Corbin Hall (3-0) easily earned the pitching victory with the bountiful support.
The Bulldogs have now scored 54 runs in four games, including 39 in their last two games, which each lasted just five innings.
Four players combined to drive in 16 runs Thursday as Cardoza-Oquendo and Gonzalez had five RBIs each and Bailey and Landers drove in three runs each.
Gonzalez has driven in 10 runs in Navarro's last two games, which were both elimination games.
Navarro's 13-hit night gives the Bulldogs a .385 team batting average (47-for-122) for their four-game World Series stretch.