GRAND JUNCTION, CO. — It was just what the doctor ordered.
Coach Matt Podjenski’s resilient Bulldogs showed no ill effects from Monday during their quick turnaround Tuesday against the 12th-ranked Cowley Tigers. In a most efficient five innings, they produced 16 runs by hammering 14 hits, and they put minimal stress on their pitching staff in a five-inning, elimination-bracket game.
As a result of Navarro’s 16-5 run-rule win, the Bulldogs receive another precious day of rest Wednesday and will wait on one of three possible teams from the winners bracket to emerge as its 7:30 pm MT Thursday opponent.
Navarro next will play either Central Arizona, ninth-ranked Iowa Western, or get a rematch with third-rated Walters State.
On Tuesday, the all-business Bulldogs created their own afternoon fireworks display by hitting grand slams in consecutive innings, and, in the process, also homered back-to-back for the third time this tournament.
Sophomore DH Jose Gonzalez, Jr., now hitting .700 through three JUCO games, went three-for-three at the plate, scored twice, slugged a grand slam and drove in five runs for NC.
During a seven-run third inning, catcher Dawson Woods launched a grand slam, and leftfielder Kyle Hawkins followed with a solo shot — very significant since it was his first roundtripper of the year.
Third baseman Stacey Bailey knocked in Navarro’s first three runs with a pair of singles — including a go-ahead, two-run single to centerfield that accounted for the first runs of the seven-run third. Bailey ran his season RBI total to 68 — just four shy of matching Chris Davis’ all-time single-season record at NC.
Woods’ one-out slam to right field off reliever Hunter O’Toole catapulted Navarro into a 7-2 lead. Landers, Bailey and the intentionally-walked Gonzalez were aboard.
During a five-run fourth inning, Gonzalez nailed his slam — a team-leading 11th homer of the year and fourth of the tournament. Cowley replaced O’Toole on the mound with Adam White. Percentages failed as Gonzalez uncoiled on the southpaw’s 1-1 offering and planted it in the parking lot.
Centerfielder Mason Holt got two hits, two walks and scored four runs for the Bulldogs, which won their 40th game of the season — most by a Podjenski-coached team here.
Everyone in Navarro’s lineup hit safely on a day in which they batted a robust .519 (14/27). The Bulldogs also benefitted by seven walks, two wild pitches and two balks from a total of eight Cowley pitchers.
While scoring in double digits Tuesday for the 27th time, Navarro’s 16 runs is its highest total since a 19-8 conference win April 20 at Bossier Parish.
NC’s batting success supported route-going starter Austin Faith’s work and made his gameplan simpler to execute. Faith (7-4) threw 79 pitches (56 for strikes), gave up nine hits and five earned runs while striking out five. Faith struck out three of the final five batters he faced.
So far, only Faith on Tuesday and Colin Wyman on Monday night have worked a team-high five innings during the double-elimination tournament as the Bulldogs play their fourth game Thursday.