Sugar Land, TX- The San Jacinto Gators got the 4-1 win over Angelina College in the Regional Finals in Sugar Land, Texas, to punch themselves a ticket into the Junior College World Series.
The Gators wasted no time starting things off in the first inning when Walker Pennington got at the plate to bring in Jon Meyer for a 1-0 lead.
San Jacinto extended that lead shortly after in the fourth inning when Pennington struck again, this time bringing in Joshua Palacios to make it 2-0 over Angelina College.
The Road Runners could only be stalled for so long before Tyler Kendrick stepped up with a deep hit to center field. While the ball sailed, Blain Gillespie ran home from third. Angelina College was in it trailing 2-1 after the fifth inning.
Gators kept it rolling though with Meyer bringing another run in, in the seventh before Luna Garrett capped things off with his at bat to finish the game 4-1.
“They fought hard. I'm proud of them for everything they did this year,” said Angelina College head coach Jeff Livin. “We just came up a little short in the hitting column. I tip my hat to San Jacinto and I applaud my team. We battled as well as we could, just ran out of horse power at the end.”
“This whole tournament we battled, we won a couple games we weren't supposed to, and no one expected us to be here. I couldn't be happier and prouder of our guys. There's no quit in them,” said Angelina College infielder Dillon Menville.
Former Hudson Hornet Riley Smith started on the mound for San Jacinto, and proved to be too much to handle.
Smith was named the Region 14 Tournament Most Valuable Player and pitched seven innings in Tuesday's final. Smith gave up just one earned run, recorded eight strikeouts, six hits against, while only walking one batter.
“I'll say the biggest deciding factor was Riley,” said Livin. “Riley really did a good job. I thought he really mixed up his pitches a lot better than I've seen him do in the past. He usually has been a predominately fast ball guy. That's kind of what we came in banking on and he made an adjustment in the game that really made a difference.”
“The adrenalin was there for every single inning," said Smith. "Then to play Angelina knowing a bunch of guys off the team, and to have to come out here and get it done, it was a little difficult at first, but once I settled in I felt like it was alright."
While East Texas won't get to cheer on a local team in this year's Junior College World Series, they have at least one player representing the area.
“It's crazy. I can't believe it's happening. Every day we've broken out with ‘Junction,' and to actually know that it's going to happen, and we get to make the experience, it's going to be pretty awesome,” said Smith.
Angelina College ends their season 24-29 and accomplished some great milestones this year, as they haven't made it to the regional final since 2005.
The JUCO World Series will start May 23rd-30th and will be hosted in Grand Junction, Colorado.
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