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Tigers Upset Top Seed, Advance To First JUCO World Series Title Game Since 1998

Cowley’s Connor Gore at-bat in the JUCO World Series against No. 1 Walters State Thursday night. (Photo by Rama Peroo)

(Editor’s Note: The majority of this article was written by Cowley Communications Director Rama Peroo)

Facing top-seeded Walters State Community College (TN), the only remaining unbeaten team at the JUCO World Series, the seventh-seeded Cowley College Tigers overcame an early 8-3 deficit to run-rule the Senators 16-8 Thursday at Stocker Stadium’s Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo.

With the win, Cowley (54-10) moves within one win of its first World Series title since 1998 and will play the winner of Friday night’s Central Arizona vs. Walters State game. The winner of Friday’s contest will face the Tigers, who’ve won four straight, in Saturday’s World Series championship game at 7 p.m. MST.

“This team has been amazing, all year they’ve been tough,” Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole told KSOK Friday afternoon. “Just watching these guys pick each other up, the chemistry, I’m very proud. It’s amazing.”

Ark City High School alum Haden O’Toole, Jason’s son, singled in the top of the 7th for Cowley. For the game, he posted two RBIs, drew two walks and scored two runs. O’Toole’s older brother, Hunter, is a senior pitcher for Southeastern Louisiana University and is also in the postseason. SLU plays No. 1 Auburn in the first round of NCAA regional action tonight in Alabama.  This season, Hunter has pitched the second-most innings for the Lions (66.2) and has posted the second-most strikeouts (56).

“We’re blessed, we just keep pinching ourselves,” Jason O’Toole said when asked how he and his wife, Shannon, have approached their sons successes this season. “This is always what we’ve done as a family. We’ve just played as a family. Shannon is athletic minded, I love athletics, our daughter is having a good year in JV.

“Sports teach these kids more than anything. You can be on the top of mountain, but you can be knocked down in the valley, but you keep plugging along.”

Tigers coach Darren Burroughs said the Tiger Magic can be a bit unnerving, but the results are worth it.

“Coming from behind has become the norm for this team,” Burroughs said in a news release from Cowley. “It’s not fun for us, but it’s rewarding and I am proud that they keep grinding and have the confidence to come back.”

Playing in front of 8,896 fans, the Tigers out-hit Walters State 16-6 and scored 13 straight runs to shock the Senators.

“We had some really good at bats against some tough arms,” Burroughs said. “These guys made adjustments, started getting hits, and that’s why we scored 16 runs.”

Facing Walters State starting pitcher Jake Knapp, who entered Thursday night’s game with a record of 14-1, the Tigers loaded the bases before Conner Gore ground into a double play that scored Bryce Madron from third. David Herring would then groundout to shortstop as Trey DeGarmo was stranded at third to end the top half of the first inning with Cowley on top 1-0.

For the second straight game, the Tigers allowed the opponent to hit a home run in their first at bat as the Senators’ Caleb McNeely hit a solo shot off Cowley starting pitcher Carson Pierce.

(Photo courtesy Cowley Sports Net)

Three batters later, still with no one out, Noah Gent belted a three-run home to put Walters State in front 4-1. The damage could have been worse as the Senators loaded the bases before Pierce struck out Decian Wiesner to keep the score 4-1. Pierce struck out the side but allowed the four runs.

The Tigers would load the bases again in the top of the second inning, and with two outs, got a two-run single from Trey DeGarmo to pull within 4-3 after two innings of play.

Pierce would be relieved on the mound after back-to-back one-out walks in the bottom of the second. Freshman Brigden Parker would come in and retire the first batter he faced before surrendering a walk and a pair of two-run singles to put the Senators ahead 8-3.

Sophomore Logan Kimbro came in to finish off the second inning before giving way to freshman Chance Condit.

Cowley would continue to fight back, this time scoring a pair of runs in the third inning off Senators’ reliever Bracken Rice, who was relieved after walking Madron to put runners at first and second with two outs. Landon Siemp entered in relief of Rice and promptly walked DeGarmo to load the bases for Jansen Reeder, who struck out to end the third with the Tigers’ trailing 8-5.

With Condit now on the mound for the Tigers, the right-hander retired all nine batters he faced to keep Cowley within striking distance.

“We felt like if we ever put up some zeroes we would have a chance,” Burroughs said. “Chance was phenomenal and threw pitches for strikes.”

Condit needed only 40 pitches to get through his three innings on the mound.

“I have never pitched in front of a crowd like that before, it was awesome,” Condit said.

Siemp was also dealing on the mound, keeping Cowley scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings before running into trouble in the sixth. With the first two runners reaching base, shortstop David Herring drove a two-run double over the centerfielder’s head to pull the Tigers within 8-7. The next batter, Logan Vaughan, chased Siemp from the game with a single that scored Herring with the tying run.

Joey Mitchell took over for Siemp and kept the score tied at 8-8 through six innings of play. However, Cowley would get to Mitchell in the top of the seventh as Haden O’Toole and DeGarmo singled before Reeder hit a go-ahead two-run double into the left field corner. Conner Gore then singled home Reeder to make the score 11-8. Cowley would score five more runs in the eight-run inning as Madron capped the uprising by hitting a three-run double.

Miguel Fulgencio tossed two scoreless innings of relief to finish off Thursday’s win.

DeGarmo and Vaughan led Cowley’s 16-hit attack with three hits apiece.

Reeder, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, spent his freshman season at Cowley before playing for Wichita State University in the fall. The sophomore made the decision to return to Cowley for one more chance at a World Series title.

“That’s our goal every year is to make it to Grand Junction and to win it,” Reeder said. “I love my guys, Coach Lefty (Burroughs), Butch (Rea), and Buck (Brock Buckingham).”

After losing its first game at the World Series the Tigers have knocked off four straight opponents to earn a day off to prepare to play in Saturday’s title game, something the program has not done in 24 years.

“We have got to relax, play our game and do what we do,” Burroughs said. “If we do that, we will have a chance to win.”

Score by inning: R H E

Cowley 1 2 2 0 0 3 8 – 16 16 1

Walters 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 – 8 6 3