Region I Champs stave off elimination with come-from-behind 13-11 win over #9 Southeast (NE) Sunday
Phoenix, Arizona – May 28, 2017 – In a nine-inning tug-of-war that featured 5 ties and 4 lead changes, the Phoenix College Bears staved off elimination at the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Baseball World Series Sunday. The 5th-seeded Bears overcame a four-run deficit to defeat 9th-seeded Southeast Community College (NE), 13-11, in an elimination round matchup at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid, Oklahoma. The win moves the Bears into another elimination-round matchup against top-seeded Murray State College (OK) Monday morning.
The euphoria of earning a trip to nationals for the first time since 2008 took a sharp hit Saturday when the Bears lost their opening-round game to 4th-seeded Mercer County Community College (NJ), 8-5, to put them at risk of being the first team to be sent home from the double-elimination tournament. It also forced them into a win-or-go-home matchup at 8AM Arizona time Sunday. The Bears’ opponents, Southeast, spotted their first-round opponent, Lansing (MI) Community College, an 8-run lead before waking up to bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning of an 8-4 loss. Determined not to let that happen again, the Storm jumped out in front with a walk, bloop single, PC fielding error, and a sacrifice fly into a 2-0 lead after an inning. The Bears wasted no time eradicating the lead-thanks to Tyler Phillips’ 1st hit of the tourney: a 2-run homer to tie the score in the 2nd. Southeast came right back in the bottom of the frame to load the bases with 1 out, and used another sacrifice fly to score a run to take a 3-2 lead. That set the stage for a 45-minute 3rd inning that would see 11 runs cross the plate. The Bears took the lead in the span of 5 pitches to start the 3rd with back-to-back solo homers from Nick Guaragna (Chaparral HS) and Ben Aklinski (Greenway HS); then added two more runs later in the inning on three consecutive singles to a 6-3 lead. Once again, though, the Storm whizzed right back into the lead in the bottom of the frame by sending 11 men to the plate (chasing both Bears’ starting pitcher Chris Douglas and reliever Grant Smith), and scoring 7 times to take a 10-6 lead into the 4th inning.
The Bears’ 3rd pitcher of the day, Bryce Johnson (Centennial HS), stifled the SCC offense long enough to let the Bears’ offense bring them back. Phillips (Cactus Shadows HS) led off the 6th with a double and scored on Guaragna’s sacrifice fly. The Bears eradicated the rest of the 10-7 deficit in the 7th when Max Johnson cranked a 3-run homer. The Bears took the lead in the 8th as Aklinski and Joe Velarde (Valley Vista HS) led off the inning with singles, and Christian Stone would send Aklinski home from 3rd base with a squeeze bunt. The Bears’ 11-10 lead would again be brief as the Storm’s Nate Schrum tied the score at 11 with a sacrifice fly in the 8th. The Bears finally took the lead for good in the 9th with a Jared Nelson walk, a Guaragna single, and a 2-run double by Aklinski-his 4th hit of the day. Aklinski took the mound in the bottom of the 9th (for the first time since April 22nd), and after allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base on the 2nd Bears’ error, slammed the door on Southwest’s season (40-20 overall) by retiring the next 3 Storm hitters in order to preserve the win. Aklinski led the Bears’ 16-hit attack by going 4-for-4 with a homer, 2 doubles, a single, 3 runs batted in and 2 runs scored; while 4 others recorded at least 2 hits. Johnson (2-3) picked up the win by scattering 7 Storm hits over his longest pitching stint of the season-6 innings-and allowing just one run while striking out 5. Aklinski picked up his 2nd save.
The Bears’ Monday opponents are feeling the same way the Bears did Saturday. By earning the top seed, Murray State clinched a first-round bye, and their first game of the tournament Sunday was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Aggies take the lead with a 4-run 9th inning-only to surrender a Lansing (MI) walkoff homer in the bottom of the 9th to lose, 11-9. First pitch for the Bears & Aggies’ matchup is scheduled for 8AM Arizona time Monday, with the winner moving on to a Tuesday matchup against the loser of Monday’s Mercer County-Lansing matchup, while the loser will head home. Fans that can’t make the trip to Oklahoma to cheer the Bears on in person can catch the action of every tournament game the Bears are involved in LIVE on GoBears SportsNet, the Bears’ internet video/audio streaming broadcast carrier on the new Bears’ Athletics website (https://athletics.phoenixcollege.edu/) or on NJCAA TV. GoBears SportsNet will broadcast an audio-only broadcast of every game the Bears play, and NJCAA TV will broadcast the video stream of every game of the tournament. All GoBears SportsNet broadcasts will have the “Voice of the Bears”, Jim Howell, providing the play-by-play.