OPENING GAME- CONNORS VS. NEO
Connors State rallied from a 2-0 deficit by pounding out 15 base hits, including three home runs to rout top-seed Northeastern A&M 10-2 and advance in the NJCAA Region 2 Baseball Tournament Friday at Hinch Field.
Cowboys will take a 34-23 record into Saturday’s elimination game at 3:30 p.m. against the loser of Seminole State and Eastern State. A Cowboy win in Saturday’s game would mean a second game at 7 p.m. Northeastern A&M closes the season 35-14.
It took the Cowboys five innings before it warmed up it bats, scoring three runs in the fifth, one in the eighth and six in the ninth frame, which included two home runs.
Phil Diedrick led the Cowboys hitting attack with a 3-for-3 performance, which included a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Chris Tavares connected on a solo blast in the ninth and Braden Cook hit a solo homer in the eighth.
Kelvin Rivas got the win on the mound going seven innings, scattering six hits, walking seven. Rivas is now 7-1 for the season. Caleb Banks pitched the final two innings facing six NEO batters, and not giving up a hit.
NEO took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Rivas was touched for two base hits and walked home the Norsemen’s first run after the Norsemen loaded the bases on a base hit, fielder’s choice and a base hit. The second NEO run came on an RBI single by Samuel Dominque.
Connors’ Diedrick saved a run when after fly ball put out right field, threw a perfect strike to Tavares to nail Calvin Ellis at the plate to complete a double play.
Connors struck for three runs in the fifth inning on just one base hit, two fielder’s choices, an error and a wild pitch.
Ryan Clarke opened the fifth by reaching on an error, followed by an Angel Flores single to left field. Jake Barton then reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Diedrick singled to right field scoring Clarke for the Cowboys’ first run. Barton then tied the game at 2-2 when he scored on a wild pitch.
Tavares then reached on a fielder’s choice and Victor Claudio drove home Diedrick with a fly ball to center field, giving Connors a 3-2 lead.
Cook opened the eighth inning with a towering home run over the left field wall, giving Connors State a 4-2 lead. It was Cook’s 4th home run of the season.
Connors assault continued in the 9th when Diedrick blasted a two-run homer over the centerfield wall at the 370-foot mark, giving the Cowboys a 6-2 lead. Diedrick’s blast, his 6th of the season, plated Barton, who had reached on a walk.
NEO replaced Travis Remillard, who took over for Norse starter Dany Coulombe in the sixth, was greeted on the first pitch by Tavares’ solo blast over the left field fence for a 7-2 Cowboys lead. It was Tavares’ 7th homer of the year.
Claudio followed with a double and moved to third on Korey Keith’s infield base hit that sent Kyle Willard to the showers for NEO and he was replaced by Ricardo Rivera. Rivera was greeted by an RBI single by Cook up the middle that scored Claudio for an 8-2 CSC lead.
Connors made it 10-2 when Flores doubled to left center field scoring Keith and Cook.
GAME TWO- CONNORS VS ROSE STATE
– Connors State behind the pitching of Chris Romano and the power hitting of Phil Diedrick and Angel Flores, overwhelmed Rose State 10-3 at Hinch Field Saturday to advance to the championship game of the NJCAA Region 2 Baseball Tournament.
Connors (35-23) will play the winner between Seminole State and Eastern State, at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Trojans and Mountaineers played the late game Saturday.
“We got to Sunday and that’s what counts,” said a jubilant Connors State head coach Perry Keith.
Romano threw his first complete 9-innning game of the year in recording the win. Romano is 3-3 on the season. The sophomore right hander from Markham Ontario, Canada, scattered 7 hits, and struck out nine, while walking two and hitting two batters.
“Romano was just awesome,” said Keith. “He got a little tired in the middle, but found his way back and got Rose to hit balls right at our guys in the middle innings. He was just great. We were able to hit them in the mouth at the git-go and he came out and didn’t let them peck away.”
Diedrick went 2-for-4 at the plate with 3 runs-batted-in that included a 3-run homer in the first inning. He also scored three times. Flores was a 3-for-4 at the plate, including a home run with an RBI and scored twice, with Eli Roundtree going 2-for-4 and two runs scored.
“Phil (Diedrick) has gotten better and better,” said Keith. “It’s all about strike zone with him and he really has lifted us. Angel makes us go and we have started to put it all together. These guys believe in themselves and we’ve got to Sunday and that’s all you can do.”
The Cowboys jumped on Rose starting pitcher Chalmer Wyatt, who last only 1/3 of an inning, giving up 5 Connors runs on four base hits in the first inning.
The big blow in the inning was a 3-run blast by Diedrick over the over the right field wall. Diedrick’s homer, his 7th of the season, plated Flores who reached on a single to right field. Jake Barton’s fly ball to right field was misplayed and was dropped by the Raiders’ Brandon Weddie.
Keith Korey drew a walk, and Eli Roundtree singled to right field and both came home on Braden Cook’s double off the centerfield wall, giving the Cowboys a 5-0 lead.
Connors increased its lead to 6-0 in the top of the second when Diedrick, who collected his second base hit, scored on Victor Claudio’s double to the left field fence.
Rose put its first run on the scoreboard in their half of the second, taking advantage of two Cowboys’ throwing errors and a sacrifice fly, cutting CSC’s lead to 6-1.
Cowboys’ home run barrage continued in the fourth inning as Flores connected for his first homer of the season, a solo shot over the center field wall, giving Connors a 7-1 advantage.
Connors kept its offensive attack going in the fifth, with two more base hits to put a run across the plate. Roundtree, who singled to right field, scored on Flores’ third base hit of the game, a single to left field, giving the Cowboys a comfortable 8-1 lead.
Cowboys made it a 10-1 game in the sixth with two more runs. Tavares sent home Barton with a double to right field and Keith’s sacrifice fly plated Diedrick. Barton had reached on a walk and Diedrick on a fielder’s choice.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME-CONNORS VS EASTERN STATE
Connors State could not overcome an early 8-1 deficit against Eastern State in the championship game of the NJCAA Region 2 Baseball Tournament Sunday at Hinch Field and the Cowboys’ season came to an end falling to the Mountaineers 12-8.
Connors advanced to the title game by defeating Seminole State 11-4 in an elimination game. The Cowboys end the year 35-24 while Eastern advances to the NJCAA South Central District tournament next week in Missouri with a 36-19 record.
“We let the first two innings get away from us and just couldn’t overcome them’: said Connors State head coach Perry Keith. “They really didn’t hit anything, we just had a lot of walks and hit batsman.”
The Cowboys used four pitchers, starter Jordan Morales, relievers Arnaldo Hernandez, Chad Backward and Bernard Sawyer against the Mountaineers. The four combined for six walks and six hit batters, while scattering 10 base hits.
“Jordan wasn’t really wild, he was just out of the zone just enough, said Keith. “If we could just have gotten ahead of them. We got close.
“But what a great testament for these kids. We could have mailed it in when we were down 8-1. But we kept chipping away. This guys showed how big a heart they have. I am so proud of them. They’ve been through so much as a group and hung in there. They gave themselves a chance.”
In the championship game against Eastern State, Connors scored in the top of the first without a base hit. Angel Flores opened the game with a walk and following a Jake Barton sacrifice, Flores moved to third on a wild pitch. Flores then scored on an infield error on a Victor Claudio ground ball for a 1-0 Cowboys lead.
Eastern responded with a 4-run first, on two base hits and an error, against Morales for a 4-1 Mountaineers lead.
Mountaineers made it an 8-1 contest with four runs in the second, as Connors used two relief pitchers in the inning Hernandez, who took over for Morales followed by Backward for Hernandez.
Cowboys fought back to make it 8-4 on a pair of home runs. Barton connected on a solo blast over the left field wall. Diedrick then walked and came home on Chris Tavares two-run blast to make it 8-4.
Connors made it an 8-6 game in the fourth with two runs on two base hits, RBI single by Diedrick that scored Flores and Barton scored on an Eastern error.
Eastern added two runs in the last of the fifth on a 2-run RBI base hit by Codey McElroy, giving the Mountaineers a 10-6 lead.
Cowboys continued to chip away at Eastern’s lead scoring in the sixth slicing the Mountaineers lead to 10-7. Flores scored on a fly ball to left field by Tavares that was dropped which allow Flores to score.
The score got closer in the top of the seventh when CSC’s Braden Cook hit a solo home run over the right field wall making it a 10-8 contest which was as close the Cowboys managed. Eastern added two more runs in their half of the seventh.
Against Seminole State the Cowboys rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the opener erupting for five runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth for an 11-4 advantage. It was a lead that Seminole could not overcome as Kylar Trumbla in relief of Caleb Banks got the win.
Trumbla went 6 innings, scattering five hits and walking just 2, while striking out four in getting the win.
Cowboys had 7 base hits with Cook leading the attack with a 3-for-5 performance, including a RBI and three runs scored. Diedrick continued his home run assault with a 2-run blast over the right field wall in the fifth inning.
Seminole entered the tournament ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA and the No. 2 seed. The Trojans close the year 41-15.
Four Cowboys were named to the All-Tournament team, Diedrick, Cook, Flores and Chris Romano.
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