The NJCAA Division III Baseball World Series will take over Greeneville, Tennessee, in just a matter of days, and the Coastal Bend College Cougars will be there to vie for a national title.
The Cougars won the first NJCAA district championship in school history on May 16, beating Tyler in walk-off fashion on the Apaches’ home field.
Coastal Bend, with the win, became the second team this season to book a ticket to the World Series, joining Niagara County (Sanborn, New York), which had clinched the North District championship just hours before CBC’s victory.
The Cougars claimed the South District championship, which is made up of teams from Regions II, V and XIV.
Eight teams advance to the NJCAA World Series: the champions of each of the six district tournaments as well as two at-large selections.
The other four district tournaments were slated to wrap up play by May 23. The at-large bids as well as the bracket and matchups for the World Series were slated to be announced May 24 by the NJCAA.
“I can see us seeded as probably the five or the six seed just because of our record,” Cougar coach Brian Baurle said about his expectations for the seeding, adding that he thinks Tyler will get one of the at-large bids.
“I feel like we’re worthy of a five or six seed. If we don’t get that, I’d kind of be upset to be honest with you.”
The Cougar diamondmen will be the first to represent the college at a national championship tournament.
“I always believed in my ability as a coach as far as recruiting with the contacts I have and the facilities,” Bauerle said. “Then Coach (Ryan) Benitez, he’s really stepped up this year and done a really good job as far as taking this group (this far). I like to say that I put them together and he’s kept them together.”
Bauerle’s charges earned their ticket to the national championship tournament by taking a best-of-three series from the Apaches at Mike Carter Field in Tyler.
The Cougars won the first game of the series May 14 behind a stellar outing from Preston Allen on the bump.
The righty from Sugar Land threw a one-hitter, leading the Cougars to a 7-0 victory.
He went 8 2/3 innings without allowing a hit on the way to the win, his fourth of the season.
He retired the next batter to finish off the complete game. He struck out six and walked just one.
He got all the help he would need when CBC scored in the top of the first. The Cougars then added a run in the fourth, two in the seventh, one in the eighth and two more in the ninth.
Ryan Davenport pounded out three hits, drove in two runs and scored twice to lead the Cougar offense.
Four other Cougars had RBIs in the win, including JB Trees, who went 2 for 5 and scored run.
The next day, Tyler answered in a big way, tagging CBC for 12 runs on 15 hits, which included a six-run outburst in the second inning.
CBC led 1-0 after one, but Tyler’s six-run second gave the Apaches the lead for good.
Coastal Bend had 12 hits in the loss with Eric Martinez going 3 for 4 and driving in a run.
Zach Seigrist and Isaiah Aguilar also drove in runs in the loss.
Cobe Reeves took the loss. He allowed four runs on five hits in an inning-plus of work, falling to 3-5 on the season.
In the rubber match, Allen and Davenport again played critical roles during a 7-6 11-inning victory by the Cougars.
Coastal Bend led 5-4 through six, but the Apaches knotted the game in the eighth.
Both teams came up with runs in the 10th, sending the game to another inning.
In the top of the 11th, Tyler put runners on first and second with one out before inclement weather rolled in, forcing a stoppage.
That delay ended up lasting more than four hours.
When the game resumed, Allen came on in relief and got the final two outs of the inning to keep the game tied.
Bret Copeland then led off the bottom of the 11th with a walk and moved over to second on Aguilar’s sacrifice bunt.
Davenport, a lefty, then deposited an opposite-field single into left, and Bauerle windmilled Copeland home.
The sophomore from Barbers Hill slid in safely for the winning run, setting off a celebration that included the Cougars mobbing Davenport.
“There’s not a better guy to score the winning run for Coastal Bend College,” Bauerle said about Copeland scoring. “He’s going to Army West Point. He’s a true testament to the student-athlete. The kid is a grinder. He’s the first on there and he’s the last one to leave. He’s a kid you’ve got to tell, ‘Hey, get out of here, we’ve got to go home, we’ve got lives.’ That’s been said by both coaches numerous times. He’s just one of those kids who is a workaholic.
“He deserved to score the winning run.”
Allen got credit for the victory, his second of the series. He didn’t allow a run or a hit and struck out one to go to 5-1 on the season.
Davenport finished the game 3 for 5 with the game-winning RBI. He also scored a run.
His exploits earned him the NJCAA Division III Player of the Week award, which was announced just days after his game-winning hit.
Martinez was 2 for 4 on the night, a performance that included a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to keep CBC alive.