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Tigers come up just short in bid for third national championship

Tigers come up just short in bid for third national championship

Making its first national championship game appearance since winning back-to-back JUCO World Series titles in 1997 and 1998, the seventh-seeded Cowley College Tigers came up just short of its third national title in a 4-2 loss to the sixth-seeded Central Arizona College Vaqueros Saturday night in the JUCO World Series title game played at Stocker Stadium's Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, CO.

The Tigers played the first game of the tournament, one week ago, and finished the tourney by playing the final game of the JUCO World Series in front of 10,703 fans.

Both teams in Saturday's championship lost their opening games at the national tournament before rattling off four straight wins to reach the title game. In what was a pitchers' duel, a pair of miscues by the Tigers turned out to be the difference in the game.

"We gave them too many outs and too many easy runs," Cowley head coach Darren Burroughs said. "You can't do that against a good team or we may still be playing or even ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth."

Shane Spencer, sporting a 13-1 record and who pitched the final two innings of Central Arizona's win over Walters State on Friday, started for the Vaqueros in Saturday's championship game. The Tigers would get to Spencer early as they had three hits in the first inning and scored a run on Conner Gore's run scoring single. However, with a chance to add to its lead, Cowley stranded the bases loaded.

Sophomore Grant Adler, making his third appearance at the JUCO World Series, gave up three straight hits to start the game but looked as if he might get out of trouble when Dusty Garcia hit a routine ground ball to second base that freshman Haden O'Toole was unable to come up with as two runs crossed the plate.

Bryce Madron would pick the Tigers up in the top of the second inning by belting a solo homer, his 18th of the season and second in the tournament to tie the game at 2-2.

Once again it appeared as if Adler would put up a scoreless inning in the second as with two outs and a runner at first, Jaylin Rae hit a sharp fly ball between left field and center field that Madron caught up to but had the ball bounce out of his mitt for an error that scored Trey Newman with the Vaqueros' third run.

Spencer would hold the Tigers scoreless in the third and Central Arizona added to its lead in the bottom half of the inning when Garcia hit a solo home run over the centerfield fence to make the score 4-2.

Adler would settle in on the mound following the homer and kept the Tigers within striking distance of the Vaqueros.

Spencer walked Ty Hammack with one out in the top of the sixth inning, the first walk of the game for either pitcher. After a bunt single by Trayson Miller put runners at first and second, O'Toole hit a line drive to the shortstop, who then tagged second base to complete the inning-ending double play.

Adler (12-2) retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced as he struck out seven and walked one, while allowing seven hits and two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched.

"I am proud of Grant and the entire team," Burroughs said.

Sophomore Miguel Fulgencio relieved Adler on the mound after Chase Valentine walked with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fulgencio got Trey Newman to ground out to end the inning and keep Cowley within 4-2.

Spencer would finally be chased from the game in the top of the seventh inning following a one-out double by Trey DeGarmo. Drew Sommers, who had struck out 87 batters in 50 innings, entered the game in relief of Spencer and promptly walked Reeder to put runners at first and second. Following a groundout by Conner Gore that put runners at second and third with two outs, Sommers struck out David Herring to escape the jam.

Spencer allowed nine hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Fulgencio would strike out the side in the bottom of the seventh, but the Tigers were unable to put anyone on base against Sommers in the eighth.

Fulgencio would make it five strikeouts in a row before giving way to Isaac Stebens, who recorded the final out in the bottom of the eighth.

With one final chance, Cowley got a one-out single by Bryce Madron to bring the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth. However, Sommers struck out DeGarmo and then got Reeder to ground out to second to end the game and capture the Vaqueros second national championship in the past three World Series tournaments.

Cowley out-hit Central Arizona 10-6 as the top-five hitters in the Tigers' lineup combined to go 9-of-22 at the plate. Unfortunately, Cowley's bottom four hitters combined to go 1-of-14 with seven strikeouts.

Cowley's Bryce Madron, Trey DeGarmo, and Logan Vaughan were named to the All-Tournament Team as the Tigers finish an incredible season as the national runner-up with a record of 54-11.

"We made great strides as a team this season, we just didn't get it done," Burroughs said. "The season has been very rewarding and the coaches (Brock Buckingham and Butch Rea) did a great job leading the way. The players molded together really good and represented us well. You want to be playing on the final Saturday night, we just couldn't overcome our mistakes."

Score by inning:                       R H E

Cowley       1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 2 10 2

C. Arizona  2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 x – 4 6 1