GRAND JUNCTION, CO — Walters State freshman shortstop Michael Robinson knocked in two runs with a full-count, two-out, bases-loaded single as the Senators rallied from a four-run deficit in the final two innings for a 6-5 victory.
Third-ranked Walters State (54-9) advances to a 7:30 pm MT Wednesday game against the winner of Tuesday’s game between Central Arizona and Iowa Western.
The crushing loss, in front of a Memorial Day crowd of 7,319 fans, sends Navarro into a 3 pm Tuesday MT elimination-bracket game against Cowley, Ks., (46-13) at Sam Suplizio Field.
Single-season saves recordholder Pepper Jones suffered Monday’s loss.
In the Senators’ ninth, leadoff hitting third baseman Drew Haynie singled on a 2-1 pitch to left and moved to second on Jerry Hammons’ sacrifice bunt. First baseman Bryce Hodge struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch for the second out.
Jones carefully worked around left-handed, clean-up hitter Brayden Combs (13-76-2 / .376) and issued a four-pitch walk. No. 5 batter Braydon Runion (11-43-7 / .369), who hit a two-run homer during the Senators’ three-run eighth inning, walked on 3-1 to load the bases.
Robinson, who went 4-for-4 in Walters State’s first-round win over Cowley, fell behind Jones in the count 1-2 and also fouled off a pitch. Robinson battled back to 3-2 before lining the walk-off single to leftfield.
Until then, Navarro controlled the game against the East Central District Champions, which hit 76 home runs, scored 589 runs, batted .347 and pitched to a 2.46 earned-run average in 62 games this season.
Pitchers Ryan Johnston and Colin Wyman limited the high-powered Senators to three hits through seven innings, while Stacey Bailey and Cash Rugely slugged home runs as the Bulldogs gradually built a 5-1 lead.
Wyman was nothing short of sensational.
He got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth and proceeded to shut down the Senators with an impressive five-inning, 74-pitch, eight-strikeout performance. Replacing Johnston in the fourth, Wyman struck out the first two hitters he faced and induced a ground ball to end the inning.
During the outing, he twice retired five Senators in succession.
Until Monday, only twice in 15 appearances this season did Wyman throw as many as 50 pitches or as many as three innings. His eight strikeouts Monday surpassed his previous-best six-strikeout effort April 15 against the Paris Dragons during a three-inning stint.
Wyman gave up three runs in the eighth inning, two on Runion’s 11th home run after Combs had reached on a two-base error. Robinson followed Runion’s homer with a double down the leftfield line, and came around to score the third run of the frame.
The Bulldogs worked on WSCC freshman pitcher Zebby Matthews (8-2, 2.45) and took a 3-0 lead after three. Matthews entered the tournament with wins from four consecutive starts.
Bailey gave NC a 1-0 lead with his second-inning home run to right off Matthews’ 3-2 pitch. While tying Jose Gonzalez, Jr., for the team home run leadership, Bailey extended his hitting streak to eight games.
Leftfielder Kyle Hawkins tripled to centerfield to spark Navarro’s two-run third inning. Travis Washburn’s one-out bunt single plated Hawkins. After Mason Holt reached on an infield hit, Matthews’ balk advanced Washburn and Holt into scoring position. Kyle Landers’ ground out delivered Washburn with the inning’s second run.
Consecutive fifth-inning singles by Washburn and Holt and a two-base error by Senator centerfielder Xavier Arnette on Holt’s hit gave NC another run.
Navarro’s final run came from Rugely, who drilled his eighth home run of the season — and second of the tournament.