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FORMER CHIEF, MIKE HANCHAR PART OF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AT IOWA WESTERN

Sunday, June 3, 2012 • POSTED BY:  NonpareilOnline.com

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - After battling through the losers bracket for an entire week, rallying from a one-run deficit in the ninth inning was no big deal for No. 1 Iowa Western.

An RBI single by Brett Bass and a bases-loaded balk gave the Reivers (62-6) a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over No. 8 San Jacinto (Texas) and their second national baseball championship.

When Keaton Steele induced a game-ending groundout from Kirby Taylor, IWCC became the first team since 2003 to win the title after losing its first game at the NJCAA World Series. San Jac (41-25) beat the Reivers 5-2 in the series opener. IWCC won five consecutive games after that.

Saturday's game at Suplizio Field was a seesaw affair. Neither team led by more than a run.

Thanks to a two-out, two-run single by Taylor, the Gators carried 5-4 lead into the ninth inning. Iowa Western had the bottom of its order due up, but coach Marc Rardin said he wasn't worried.

"I was pretty calm," he said. "I know people don't believe me, but I really was. It was fun. I was enjoying the crowd and enjoying the atmosphere."

Steele, who had given the Reivers their previous two leads at 2-1 and 4-3 with a two-run homer and a sacrifice fly, drew a walk to open the top of the ninth. Grant Kay then beat out a bunt to put two men on. Pinch hitter Steven Leonard sacrificed them into scoring position with a bunt of his own.

Bass followed with a two-strike flare over the head of shortstop Galli Cribbs to tie the game at 5-all. Reliever Skylar Janisse came on to strikeout Sam Bumpers and walk Damek Tomscha.

With the bases loaded and two out, he was called for a balk before delivering the first pitch to cleanup hitter Levi Meyer. It plated Kay with the run that decided the championship.

Steele replaced winner Kyle Gehrs and opened the bottom of the ninth with a pair of strikeouts. Justin Byrd then nearly tied the game for San Jac with a deep drive to right field.

His liner bounced off the wall, missing a home run by approximately two feet. The triple put the potential tying run at third, but Taylor grounded an 0-2 pitch from Steele to short.

The Reivers were in a dogpile on the mound mere seconds after the final out.

"It was great feeling," Rardin said. "It really sinks in the next few weeks."

Kyle Gehrs earned the victory on a night when the Reiver bullpen was outstanding. After IWCC starter Andy Roberts gave up single runs in each of the first three innings, the trio of Pascal Paul, Gehrs and Steele combined to hold the Gators down for the most part.

Paul retired nine batters in a row during one stretch and fanned six in three innings of work. He was in danger of suffering a loss, however, when the two men he put on in the seventh eventually scored.

IWCC's rally in the ninth bailed him out. And it gave a fitting ending to a year that saw the Reivers win a school record 62 games while also leading the nation in team hitting.

"There's got to be something about it," Rardin said. "There's got to be something that makes these guys work. The first thing is the togetherness, then the attitude and effort."

 

Iowa Western (62-6)      020  011  002  -  6  9  0

San Jacinto (41-25)        111  000  200  -  5  9  2

W: Kyle Gehrs (5-0)  L: AJ Glassof (8-6) S: Keaton Steele (2)

2B: SJ, Jarred Fancher. 3B: SJ, Justin Byrd. HR: IW, Steele. SJ, Fancher.