After a five-year absence and a little Friday night suspense, Iowa Western’s baseball team is back in the national championship game of the JUCO World Series.
Gibson Krzeminski’s single scored Cooper Bowman with the decisive run in the eighth inning Friday night as the Reivers turned back Navarro (Texas) 15-7 to reach Saturday’s 8 p.m. CDT final against Central Arizona, whom the Reivers beat 14-4 on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be June 1st, and two Division I junior college teams are going to be playing, and everybody else is home, and that alone is a great feeling,” said Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin, whose teams won national titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Iowa Western had lost 23-8 to Navarro on Thursday night.
Friday, though, the Reivers built an 11-2 lead after five innings.
They were one out away from ending the seventh inning with a lead of eight runs or more, which would have finished the game by run rule. But Ronald Sweeny III was charged with an error on a high popup by Jose Gonzalez Jr., scoring two runs and pulling Navarro back to within 11-4.
Given the reprieve, Navarro crept to within 11-7 in the eighth on a home run by Esteban Cardozo-Oquendo and a two-run single by Gonzalez.
But the Reivers pulled away again with four runs in the bottom of the inning to end it. Greg Bennett slammed a solo home run – he was 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs – and Navarro pitcher Pepper Jones hit a wild spell. He hit Ross Indlecoffer with a pitch, Colin Kasperbauer singled, and both eventually scored on wild pitches. Bowman walked and moved to third when Caleb Balgaard struck out but took first on a passed ball, setting the stage for Krzeminski’s game winner.
The Reivers built their 11-2 lead by scoring in each of the first five innings.
Highlights included Ross Indlecoffer’s second-inning solo homer, Bennett’s two-run double in the third and Jaden Rolffs’ two-run shot in the fifth.
Brandon Doty got the win for Iowa Western after relieving starter Braedyn McLaughlin in the fifth inning and holding Navarro to one run over the next 1 2/3 innings.
“A win’s a win,” Rardin said on the postgame radio show.
Navarro (41-18) 000 110 23–7 7 3
Iowa Western (52-10) 123 140 04–15 16 2
W: Brandon Doty. L: Carson Rollins. 2B: IWCC: Greg Bennett. HR: N, Esteban Cardozo-Oquendo; IWCC, Jaden Rolffs, Bennett, Ross Indlecoffer.