Bears score 12 runs in first 3 innings to eliminate top-seeded Murray State (OK), 12-7, Monday
Phoenix, Arizona – May 29, 2017 – For the second straight day, a double-digit run and hit attack allowed the Phoenix College Bears to stay alive in the elimination round of the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Baseball World Series Monday. The 5th-seeded Bears overcame a four-run deficit for the 2nd straight game to defeat top-seeded Murray State College (OK), 12-7, at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid, Oklahoma. The win moves the Bears into their third elimination-round matchup against 8th-seeded Lansing Community College (MI) Tuesday afternoon.
Ever since the 8-5 opening-round loss Saturday to Mercer County, the pressure has been on the Bears to justify their #5 seed, and of course, to avoid going home earlier than anticipated. Since they walked off the turf Saturday, they’ve done just that, and now will finish the tourney no worse than 5th in the nation. The quest to stay alive Monday became a mammoth task when they found out Sunday night that Murray State had been stunned in their first game of the tournament, 11-9, by Lansing. The Aggies sport the nation’s 5th-best offense, and showed it right off the bat, using a single, RBI double, Bears’ fielding error and a 2-run blast by Ricky Silvestri to score 4 runs in the top of the 1st inning. Bolstered by the confidence that they’d already overcome a 4-run deficit yesterday against Southeast, the Bears came right back with a Nick Guaragna (Chaparral HS) single and the 15th home run of the season from ACCAC Home Run Champion Ben Aklinski (Greenway HS) in the bottom of the frame to cut the deficit to 4-2. The Aggies were also delivered a blow later in the inning when their starting pitcher (and 7-game winner) Grant Macchiocchi was forced the leave the game with an injury, which would eventually start a string of pitching changes for MSC. After Bears’ starting pitcher Sam Romero (Alhambra HS) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 2nd, the Bears sent 10 men to the plate (against 3 different Aggie pitchers) in the bottom of the 2nd, saw 7 straight hitters reach base safely, and scored 5 runs. Murray State pulled back to within a run with a Jaxon Phipps double in the 3rd to score a pair of runs to make it a 7-6 PC lead. That set the stage for what would ultimately become the knockout punch in the bottom of the 3rd. Singles by Tyler Phillips (Cactus Shadows HS) and Guaragna-followed by walks to Aklinski and Joe Velarde (Valley Vista HS)-forced in a run and chased MSC pitcher Jason Burt. Lane Rice would enter as the Aggies’ 5th pitcher of the day, and before he blanked the Bears for the next 6 innings, he made one bad pitch, resulting in the first grand-slam homer of Anthony Williams’ career to increase the Bears’ lead to 12-6. The texture of the game changed in the 4th inning-although it initially didn’t appear that way when Murray State loaded the bases with no one out to chase Romero. Livan Cordova (Cesar Chavez HS) replaced him, and saved his best performance of the season for this game. Cordova not only worked out of that bases-loaded jam with no one crossing the plate, but also worked through three more bases-loaded situations, allowing just one run the rest of the way. The final gasp for the Aggies was in the 9th, when they again loaded the bases, but Cordova struck out MSC’s Austin Ferguson to leave the runners stranded, record the final out, and shock the tournament by sending the top-seeded Aggies home with back-to-back losses. Cordova (3-0) pitched a career-long 6 innings to get the win, scattering four hits while striking out 5. Offensively for Phoenix (42-21 overall, 25-15 ACCAC), Williams had a 5-RBI day, Aklinski and Velarde each brought home 3 runs, and Guaragna led the 15-hit attack with 3 singles, scoring all 3 times. Chandler Robertson led the way offensively for Murray State (48-14-1 overall) with 4 hits in 5 at-bats.
The Bears will play their 2nd afternoon game of the tournament Tuesday against the lowest remaining seed in the tournament, Lansing Community College, who fell out of the winners’ bracket late Monday night with a 9-7 loss to Mercer County. First pitch for the Bears & Stars’ matchup is scheduled for 1:30PM Arizona time Tuesday, with the loser being eliminated, and the winner thinking revenge in a Wednesday afternoon semifinal matchup against Mercer County. 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.