Just like they have all season, the Connors State Cowboys have grind out victories. Sunday afternoon at Hinch Field inJenks was no different.
The Cowboys rallied from a 2-0 deficit with six runs in the seventh inning to win the NJCAA Region II Baseball Tournament 6-2 over Seminole State College.
“I can’t be more proud of these guys,” said Cowboys head coach Perry Keith. “We’ve done this all year, just a grind it out ball club. We got behind 2-0, and I knew we would come back.
“Our guys just don’t panic. This has been an outstanding group to coach. Just a bunch of grinders, nothing fancy.”
The victory sends the No. 11-ranked Cowboys into the NJCAA South Central District beginning Friday at Connors State’s Biff Thompson Field. The double elimination tournament runs through Sunday and will involve the Cowboys and the champions from Regions 16, 23 whose’s finals were late Sunday night.
It will be the Cowboys first appearance in the South Central District since 2008 when they took the championship and advanced to the NJCAA College World Series.
CSC’s starter Colton Strother (5-2), sophomore from Broken Arrows threw seven innings gave up a home run in the fifth and another run in the top of the seventh when his teammates’ bats came alive in their half of the inning.
Strother scattered five hits, struck out four and walked three in getting the win. Keith then called on closer Justin Ferrell to work the final two innings facing seven Seminole batters striking out two and giving up two hits.
“This is so exciting, I’ve been dreaming about this championship game all year,” said Strother. “We’ve worked hard for this. I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and no walks.
“I knew I had a good defense behind me and a good offense ahead. The seventh inning was huge for us. It took the pressure off,” said Strother.
The Cowboys sent 11 batters to the plate in the seventh and pounded out six base hits. The big blow of the inning was Phil Diedrick’s two-run RBI single down the right field line. Diedrick’s single gave the Cowboys a 6-2 lead.
Diedrick, who went 3-for-4 at the plate said he got his pitch and just “drove it where it was thrown.”
“This is a good year to continue my sophomore year,” said Diedrick. “I got the pitch I was looking for. I knew left on left he (Jordan Watson) would throw a breaking ball. I was trying to get something up so I could elevate it for a fly ball to get a run in.”
Diedrick opened the seventh inning with a single to right field followed by Victor Claudio’s base hit to center field. After Eli Roundtree flew out to the shortstop, Jiro Morales drove home Diedrick with Connors first run, to make it a 2-1 game.
Erick Kirkpatrick then got a base hit to keep the bases loaded. Dalton Daniels ground ball to Seminole’s second baseman Melvin Gray was mishandled, allowing Claudio to score tying the game at 2-2.
Christian Perez then laced a shot to centerfield that brought home Dalton with the go ahead run. Keith then hit an opposite field single to left field. On the play Chance Sugg, running for Kirkpatrick was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Yariel Gonzalez walked, setting the stage for Diedrick’s second hit of the game, which plated two more runs.
“I knew we were going to break through,” said Diedrick. “We are that kind of team, a grind it out team. It was only a matter of time.”
The victory was Perry’s first win over Seminole head Coach Lloyd (Zero) Simmons in Region II Tournament action.
“We’ve had a lot of battles,” said Perry. “Lloyd and I are just country boys at work. Just baseball guys.”
Concerning the pitching performance of Strother, Perry said, “What we got out of Colton was just great. If you would have told me he would held them with zeroes for five innings, then do what he did.
“We were hoping to get 5 or 6 innings from him and then give it to Ferrell. Colton just kept going and then we popped that lead.
“We got our bats going, That’s what this club has done all year,” said Keith.
Looking ahead at the South Central, Keith said “We’ll enjoy this till midnight then just be who we are…grinders.”
Named to the Region II All-Tournament team from Connors was Phil Diedrick, Yariel Gonzalez, Christian Perez, Kelvin Rivas and Colton Strother.
Cowboys’ head coach Perry Keith was named the Region II Coach of the Year.