A determined Barton Community College baseball team fought past a disappointing loss to storm back with three straight wins to capture its first Central District title in earning a berth in the NJCAA Division I World Series.
Barton's next contest comes from Grand Junction, Colorado, as the Cougars will take on 8th ranked Jefferson College (52-9) out of Missouri in the 4:00 p.m. (CT) contest. The winner advances to Monday's 11:00 a.m. (CT) game while the loser will need to survice the loser's bracket beginning with Sunday night's 8:30 p.m. (CT) elimination game.
Bounced to the loser's bracket final after dropping a 6-5 loss to 8th ranked Cowley College on Sunday, the 19th ranked Cougars took care of Hutchinson Community College 8-0 in a run-rule shortened seven innings to bounce back up to the championship game.
Winning the first championship game 16-7 in a span of two days due to inclement weather, Carson Engroff and Brett Bonar gave the Cougars a third inning edge with consecutive two out doubles staking ace hurler Josh Hendrickson a three run lead.
Paul Claassen answered Cowley's two-out RBI single in the sixth driving a deep two-out shot to left field pushing the lead back out to 4-1.
Cowley made things in tense for the Cougar faithful an inning later as a two out double plated two as Dawson Pomeroy was called out of the pen to protect the one run lead.
The tight ball game only seemed to motivate the determined Cougars even harder with Pomeroy leading the way beginning the ninth with a single up the middle. Following Kaden Fowler reaching on a fielder's choice throwing error trying to get Pomeroy out at second, Tim Bell lined the biggest hit of the Junction City freshman's year to center field to plate Pomeroy. Claassen kept the line moving with an RBI single to left and an out later, co-MVP of the tournament Engroff lasted a three run shot to left field to cap the five run inning.
Pomeroy struck out the first Tiger in the home half with the middle infield duo of Claassen and Brett Erickson rolling up the clinching double play sending the Cougars to Grand Junction for the first time in program history.
Hendrickson improved to 11-2 on the season in striking out seven in scattering nine hits over 7.2 innings.
The Road to the Championship:
Getting a tremendous complete game shutout by sophomore Andrew Repp, the Cougar offense posted a six spot in the third inning to break open the game against Hutchinson. Chandler Kelley, Engroff, and Erickson each delivered RBI singles before Pomeroy capped the big inning with a ground rule double down the left field line. Erickson and Kelley singles in the eight provided the final dagger to earn Barton a little extra rest before its rematch with the Tigers.
Cowley looked to halt the Cougars' momentum scoring two of their three inning runs on the first three batters. Austin Taylor struggled early with two walks before a double brought in Zach Curry from the pen as a sacrifice fly would drive home the third.
Erickson and Pomeroy singles quickly turned the tide to the Cougars in the ensuing second frame but two straight outs looked be killing the inning.
Kelley gave Barton new life in drawing a walk with Harrison Denk joining the base paths by getting hit by a pitch to push across the bases loaded run to chase the Cowley starter. Engroff punched in two more runs on a single up the middle with Brett Bonar lacing a single to right field giving the Cougars the lead change at 4-3.
Barton put together another two-out rally in the fourth with Engroff driving in a run before Bonar sent a blast to centerfield in tying Kaden Fowler for the team lead of eleven home runs.
Cowley threatened in the home half but Easton Smith was able to work out of a bases loaded jam getting force out at the plate before inducing a harmless fly ball to right field.
Rolling up two double plays in the contest, the most memorable Cougar defensive play came from Denk robbing Dalton Dinkel's potential two-run home run with a leap and pull-back over the top of the eight foot fence.
As inclement weather rolled in suspending play in the ensuing top of the sixth, Denk's play helped the Cougars rest a little easier in a 7-3 lead instead of a two run ball game.
Despite the hoopla and social media buzz stretching into the late hours of the night, the Cougars picked up where they left off on the 10:00 a.m. resumption plating four runs. Barton capitalized on an infield error to score one with Bonar driving in another pulling a single through the right side. Brady Michel followed with a double to the right center gap, scoring one batter later as Erickson found the same gap resulting in a stand-up on the third base bag.
Cowley cut one off the margin in the home half on a bases loaded hit by pitch with Barton answering the run on Denk's triple to right field driving in Claassen's leadoff walk.
A walk began Cowley's half of the frame with a one-out single and double plating the first of three runs. Neil Lemmons, who helped Barton get out of the bases loaded jam the inning previous being helped by an Erickson-Claassen-Engroff double play, looked to be getting out of the seventh but a fielding error extending the inning resulting in two Tigers to cross the plate.
A bases loaded Denk walk in the eighth pushed the lead out to five but the Cougars drove in the dagger on another bases loaded situation in the ninth getting a Claassen two RBI single and Kelley reaching on a fielding error.