Cochise College Athletics

Apaches eliminated from World Series by Columbia State

IMG_3598GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Cochise College baseball team couldn’t pull off one last rally Monday.

The Apaches were eliminated from the NJCAA Division I World Series with a 12-11 loss in 12 innings to Columbia State Community College of Tennessee. Cochise fell behind 6-0 in the first two innings before climbing back into it, scoring five runs in the sixth inning to tie it 7-7.

The game was tied again at 9-9 at the end of the ninth to send it to extra innings, where Cochise scored two in the 10th to take an 11-9 lead, but Columbia State battled back to tie it in the bottom of the inning with a two-run home run, and Riley Delgado’s walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 12th won it for Columbia State.

“We gave them six runs early, didn’t have a good outing to start the game, but I had no doubt we’d score runs,” said Cochise head coach Todd Inglehart. “Especially when we got into their bullpen. But six in the beginning will catch up to you.”

The Apaches used nearly everyone on their roster in the four-hour game, especially late as they worked to manufacture runs. Errors also proved costly; the Cochise dugout scored five misplays for the Apaches, while the official scorekeeper in the press box marked three.

“I told the freshmen that this is invaluable experience. It doesn’t mean you’re going to come back, because it’s so hard to get here, but in terms of growing competitively, you can’t ask for more, and to use this as motivation and also to be able to control situations a little better,” Inglehart said. “Early on, our young guys sped up the game a little bit, and we had an easy double play ball we got a little too fast, panicked in the outfield and dropped a fly ball. But those guys will learn from this. I knew this group would compete, and they did. We just ran out of dudes at the end.”

After the Apaches tied it 7-7 in the top of the sixth, Tyler Fullerton hit a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, and Columbia State scored again in the bottom of the seventh on a misplayed ground ball to go up 9-7. Down to their last three outs, the Apaches answered in the top of the ninth with a double by Darick Hall, who scored on a double by Sean DeSoto, who scored on a Jake Luna single to tie it 9-9.

“We were feeling super confident, but that team just wouldn’t go away,” said Cochise shortstop Louis Boyd, a freshman whose triple in the top of the sixth cleared the loaded bases and tied the game. “We tried to put them away a couple of times, but they just kept fighting back and it was a great ballgame.”

In the top of the 10th, Cochise had the bases loaded for a line drive to center field to score Trey Reineke and Boyd, with Hall thrown out at home, to put the Apaches up 11-9. A two-run home run in the bottom of the inning by Chase Howell tied it again. The Cochise offense never got closer than second base after that, and in the bottom of the 12th, Delgado sent a full-count pitch over the left field wall.

“It was looking bleak,” Inglehart said. “We were going to need a two-out hit and we just didn’t get it, and I knew sooner or later something was going to happen (for Columbia State). In the end, we had one position player and no pitchers, and when they tied it, I knew we were in trouble.”

Hall started on the mound for Cochise but ran into problems in the first inning, despite a double play mitigating the damage of an error that allowed the leadoff batter to reach first. Columbia State scored three runs in the first inning, and David Estrada came on in relief with the bases loaded to strike out the next batter.

Estrada went 3 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, one of them earned, on five hits and a walk while striking out one. Josh Advocate pitched the next 3 2/3 and gave up two runs, one of them earned, on four hits while striking out three. Steve Naemark, who was the starting pitcher for Cochise’s opening game of the tournament on Saturday, came on in the ninth and went the rest of the game, giving up three runs on five hits and striking out one.

“Steve did that in districts: 106-degree heat, he goes out on one day’s rest and gives us whatever he can,” Inglehart said. “We’re so depleted with different circumstances involved. We basically had five pitchers coming in here, and it was an uphill battle. They left their hearts, guts and tears on the field like I knew they would, and that’s all I could ask.”

DeSoto was 3 for 6 at the plate with three RBIs and two runs scored. Boyd was 3 for 7 with five RBIs and a run scored. Hall and Boyd each had two doubles in the game.

“The way we battled, the whole atmosphere we went through and the experience we gained,” Boyd said under the stands on the third-base side of Suplizio Field, as dozens of kids asked players for autographs. “You lose a tough game, you’re crying five minutes ago, and these kids give you a smile on your face.”

The Apaches were the third team eliminated from the 10-team bracket after finishing third place at last year’s World Series. At the post-game press conference, Inglehart called out the five sophomores — Jake Luna, Gerardo Arzaga, Naemark, Xavier Altamirano and Austin Nelson — who had made their second straight trip to Grand Junction.

“These five guys who won 90-plus games in two years, came to the World Series twice, unbelievable high-character guys who will succeed in life once they’re done with baseball,” he said. “They gave me every day’s effort constantly. Last year, it was really tough emotionally because we had a lot of sophomores I cared about, and these five guys, it will be really tough to say goodbye to. They are special. It’s a special group.”