Records were set, teams were eliminated one by one, but when the final out came Saturday night at just shy of 11:30 in Jackson County, cheers could be heard from Beef O’Brady’s who carried the games on the big screens throughout the tournament to homes across the county. The number one ranked Chipola College Indians had won the JUCO World Series in dramatic fashion, 15-6 over San Jacinto, better known to the Indian nation as San Jac.
The 15-6 score is indicative that the offense came to play, but the Indian defense was equal to the task, making phenomenal play after play. Catcher Chris Clayton suffered a blow to the face early in the game, taped up, bandaged up, and saw the game through to the end from behind the plate! Trey Dawson went above and beyond the range of a shortstop to keep the Gators off the bases, as did Jose Caballero. Reynaldo Rivera will need lots of ice over the next few days as he made one awesome play after another at first. Andrew Bechtold played the line at third and covered halfway to short on the crack of the bat. The outfield of Jacob Silverstein, Brody Wofford, and Te’Kwaan Whyte went from one amazing catch and throw in to the next one without missing a step.
The pitching staff does not go unnoticed with the offensive slugfest the Indians put on game after game. Evan Steele allowed three runs in 14 innings, picked up wins in the first game of the series and the Friday night game that sent the Indians to the championship round. He held San Jac to one run in eight innings, a team that had hit double digits in four of their seven games, nine runs in another game. Riley Cabral, Andrew Grogan, and Bowden Francis all had starts on the mound for the Indians. Relief was not in short supply either as Ryan Shauger, Grogan, Robbie Knox, Cabral, Connor Hock, and Kevin Craft all came on in relief and did their job. Junior Harding pitched the last out in three of the seven games played, six and two-thirds total innings, allowed just two runs, and fanned 12 batters.
In the championship game, veteran coach Jeff Johnson went with Bowden Francis who went four innings before giving way to Ryan Shauger for three innings. Junior Harding came on for the final two innings of the game. Shauger picked up the win.
Offensively, Brody Wofford was the leader with three hits, including a homerun, three runs scored, and two RBIs. Also on board with three hits was Andrew Bechtold who added two RBIs and one run scored, followed by Te’Kwaan Whyte who had two hits, including a homerun, three RBIS and two runs scored. Jose Caballero had three RBIs, two runs scored, and one walk. Reynaldo Rivera had one hit, three RBIs, one walk, and one run scored, with Max Guzman picking up one hit, two walks, three runs scored, and an RBI. On board with two hits, one run scored, and one walk was Trey Dawson, while Jacob Silverstein had one hit, one walk, and one run scored. Chris Clayton had a run scored.
Earning free passes were Chris Clayton and Max Guzman who were both hit by pitches twice, with Jose Caballero taking one for the team.
Chipola scored one run in the second inning, two in the fourth, one in the fifth before opening up the offense with three in the sixth, four in the seventh and ninth innings. The Indians committed no errors in the championship game. Following the game an elated coach Johnson said, “This is a great group of kids and they really played their butts off. It didn’t look good for us but we were playing a great team as well and we finally got the bats going, settled down on the mound. This is a great bunch of kids and we played some great defense. This group has played well all year, we were really hot at the state, the regional tournament and we got here and had the 17-day layoff but once we got our rhythm back, we played extremely well. This is one of the best teams I’ve ever had, they have done a great job. Trey Dawson, Jacob Silverstein have been great to buy in and this team joined in as a team and just did great. Junior did a great job, he had a 10-run lead and I was pacing, I think Junior does a lot better with a two-run lead but he settled down and I was so proud for him, coming back from his illness, missed last year, and it was just awesome.”
Congratulations to coach Jeff Johnson, coach John DiLaura, coach John Fiorentino, and the Chipola Indians baseball team on their 2017 World Series Championship from the publisher, Mrs. Mader, and the entire staff at the Jackson County Times.