2nd-seeded Bears earn right to face #1 Mesa in best-of-3 series after 8-1 win over Paradise Valley Saturday
Phoenix, Arizona – May 6, 2017 -- Phoenix College is proud to announce that the PC Baseball team has officially clinched a berth in the 2017 Region I Division II Baseball Finals. The Bears wrapped up a spot in the championship round by virtue of their 8-1 victory over 3rd-seeded Paradise Valley Community College Saturday, winning the best-of-3 Region I Division II Semifinals, 2-1, over the Pumas. With the Game 3 victory by top-seeded Mesa Community College over 4th-seeded Chandler-Gilbert Community College in the other semifinal series (winning the series, 2-1), the top-seeded Thunderbirds will host 2nd-seeded Phoenix in the best-of-3 Region I Finals beginning Thursday afternoon, May 11th. First pitch is scheduled for 3PM at the MCC campus in Mesa.
Close games were not a part of this weekend’s series between the Bears and the Pumas, which was surprising, since they split both of the 2-day regular season series, and three of the four games were decided by three runs or less. But the Bears set the tone in the first inning of Game 1 Thursday, racking up 9 runs on 10 hits in the frame, and demoralizing the Pumas with Justin Revels’ stellar pitching in a seven-inning, mercy-rule 12-0 Bears’ win. But as pumped as the Bears were on Thursday, they seemed just that flat on Friday, managing just 7 hits (6 of them singles) against Pumas’ starter Walker Ramsey, and trailing the entire game in a 5-1 PVCC win. That squared the series at a game apiece, and set the stage for a winner-take-all Game 3 Saturday at Marich Field. For the third straight game, the first team to score was the team that wouldn’t trail throughout the game. Fortunately for Bears’ fans, the Bears jumped on Pumas’ starting pitcher Pedro Astacio immediately, sending 8 men to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning, needing just one hit to score a pair of runs-thanks to an errors and three walks. In the 3rd inning, the Bears played ‘small ball’ to perfection, stringing together four straight singles to start the inning and plating three of them to take a 5-0 lead. That would be more than enough for Bears’ starter Chris Douglas (Independence HS), who got out of a 1st-inning jam, then proceeded to retire eight straight hitters before Matt Malkin ruined the shutout with his second solo home run in as many days in the 4th inning. That would prove to be the only blemish for Douglas on the day as he got within one out of a complete-game victory, and had plenty of reasons to congratulate the defenders behind him, who pulled off 3 double plays in the game. When Bryce Johnson came in to strike out the game’s final hitter, the Bears had their series win, and their 3rd berth in the championship round in the last decade. Offensively, the Bears (38-20 overall, 25-15 ACCAC) were about as balanced as Bears’ Head Baseball Coach Kevin Kimball could’ve asked for, since 8 of the 9 starters had at least one hit. Casey Dunlap led the way for the Bears with a double as part of his four-hit day, stealing a base, scoring twice and knocking in a pair of runs. Malkin showed why he was the top hitter this season for the Pumas (33-26 overall, 21-19 ACCAC) with his second straight 3-hit afternoon in a losing effort.
The Bears now head to the championship round with an element of revenge in their minds, since it was Mesa’s sweep of the Bears in the final two-day series of the regular season that dropped the Bears to the #2 seed, and ensured that the Region I Finals would be hosted by MCC if this matchup survived to this round. That sweep also gave Mesa the season series as they took 3 out of 4 games from PC in 2017, and swept the two games played at MCC. This is will be the second postseason matchup between the two teams in the last 3 years, and the Bears hope they can pull off the same magic they had in 2015 when they upset the defending national champion Thunderbirds, 2 games to 1, in the ’15 Region I Semifinals. The Bears are seeking their first trip to the NJCAA Division II College World Series since 2008, while the Thunderbirds are in search of their first trip to nationals since that championship season of 2014, and their 5th nationals appearance since 2004.
Every game of the 2017 Region I Finals will be played at the baseball field at Mesa Community College (1833 West Southern Avenue in Mesa). The schedule for the series is as follows:
Game 1 Thursday, May 11th 3PM
Game 2 Friday, May 12th 3PM
Game 3 (if necessary) Saturday, May 13th Noon
Under Region I Playoff rules, no passes are allowed, so admission prices for each day are $5 for all adults and $3 for PC students. The winner of the Region I Finals will advance to the NJCAA Division II Baseball Tournament in Enid, Oklahoma, beginning May 27th.