In a rematch of the first game of the JUCO World Series, the seventh-seeded Cowley College Tigers and fourth-seeded Central Florida College Patriots faced off in an elimination game Tuesday at Stocker Stadium’s Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo.
According to a news release from Cowley, sophomore centerfielder Bryce Madron homered and drove in four runs to help the Tigers overcame an early four-run deficit to win 10-7 and advance to play Thursday at 7:30 MST as one of only four teams left in the tournament.
“You could see the momentum start to change and our guys played with a lot of confidence,” Cowley head coach Darren Burroughs said. “I am really proud of how the guys handled the situation of getting down, they did not panic.”
After dropping the opening game of the World Series to the Patriots, Cowley has now rattled off three consecutive victories to improve its record to 53-10.
Along with Madron’s big game, Jansen Reeder and Conner Gore had three hits apiece as the Tigers’ out-hit Central Florida 13-8.
On Tuesday, Tiger starting pitcher Aaron Weber did not get out of the first inning as the Patriots hit three, solo home runs among the first five batters. Weber would go on to allow a single to Nicholas Calero before being relieved on the mound by Grant Adler, who started Saturday’s 8-2 loss to Central Florida.
Adler would retire the next batter to end the top of the first inning with Cowley trailing 3-0. However, the Patriots would scratch across another run in the top of the second to increase their lead to 4-0.
Haden O’Toole led off the bottom of the third inning with a walk, advanced to second on a base on balls to Bryce Madron, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a one-out single by Jansen Reeder. Madron would also score on the play due to an errant throw to home plate.
Conner Gore and David Herring followed with back-to-back singles to pull Cowley within 4-3. The inning would end as the Tigers hit into their second double play in three innings, but Cowley had gained the momentum.
Adler would settle in on the mound as he held the Patriots’ scoreless in the third inning and then struck out the side in the fourth.
With the momentum shifted, freshman Trayson Miller continued to make coach Burroughs decision to put him in the lineup look good as he hit his second home run of the tourney. The solo homer tied the game at 4-4.
Two batters later, Bryce Madron crushed a two-run homer over the scoreboard to give Cowley a 6-4 lead and chase Patriots’ starting pitcher James Hill from the game.
“We have come back before, so we were pretty relaxed and just trying to have fun out there,” Madron said. “We love this moment and it’s never too big for us.”
Cowley would tack on a run in the bottom of the sixth when Conner Gore doubled home Reeder with the Tigers’ seventh run.
Adler, who gave the Tigers a huge lift on the mound, was relieved by J’Briell Easley after allowing back-to-back base runners to start the seventh inning. A wild pitch by Easley moved runners to second and third before a fielding error allowed two runs to score. However, Easley did not let the miscues affect him as he got a flyout and back-to-back strikeouts to preserve the 7-6 lead.
Adler (12-1) allowed two hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
“The game started a little rocky, but Grant Adler came in and did a phenomenal job,” Burroughs said.
Clinging to the one-run lead, Madron tripled home a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh to put the Tigers in front 9-6.
Following a leadoff single by the Patriots’ John Marant to start the eighth inning, Easley was relieved by Cowley closer Isaac Stebens, who tossed three scoreless innings to finish off Monday’s win. Following an out, back-to-back runners reached base to load the bases with only one out. Landon Ginn, who earned the victory over Cowley in the opener, then pinch hit for the Patriots. Ginn would hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score the seventh run for Central Florida. Then, with runners at first and second and two outs, Stebens struck out Kevin Kilpatrick to maintain the Tigers’ 9-7 lead.
Cowley would see four different pitchers in the bottom of the eighth as they scored an additional run to take a 10-7 lead to the ninth inning.
There was no doubt Stebens would be coming back out to pitch the bottom of the ninth as the right-hander has been dominant the entire season. With the game on the line, Stebens retired the side in order to send Cowley onto the Final-Four.
“I asked him how many outs he could go,” Burroughs said. “He’s a team guy that does whatever we need out of him.”
Central Florida ends the season with a record of 47-17.
The save for Stebens was his eighth of the season and the 100th career victory for the Tiger sophomores.
“I have loved every bit of being part of this team,” Stebens said. “This is a brotherhood. It’s been a team effort.”
Score by inning: R H E
C. Florida 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 – 7 8 3
Cowley 0 0 3 3 0 1 2 1 x – 10 13 1