CNHI News Services
All season long, Connors State coach Perry Keith has said his team was winning a lot of ball games ugly.
On Saturday, the game between the Cowboys and No. 1 Delgado (La.) was anything but as Connors beat the Dolphins 3-1 to capture the South Central district championship and a berth in next week’s NJCAA College World Series.
“Last night was ugly,” Keith said. “But this has been us all year. We just find ways to win and compete every at bat.”
The one thing that Keith could have hoped for less than 24 hours later was what he got out of starter from Daniel Concepcion, which prohibited an if-necessary game today with both teams with one loss in the double-elimination affair. Concepcion (8-1) threw eight innings, holding the Dolphins to one run on six hits with six strikeouts, and gives credit to the other eight guys on the field.
“Just trust the catcher,” Concepcion said. “Trust my teammates, get ahead in the count and paint the corners.”
A key element to Concepcion’s performance was his command of the strike zone. He threw a total of 119 pitches with 72 of them strikes, something Keith wanted when Concepcion took the mound.
“That’s what we needed,” Keith said. “Their guy was good but that’s Daniel. He throws strikes and was able to get his change-up over.”
Delgado starter Chase Hymel (7-2) did his job keeping his team in the game. Hymel threw six innings and surrendered two earned runs on six hits.
The Cowboys (52-9) opened the scoring in the second inning with two runs on one hit. Victor Claudio began the frame with a walk and moved to second on a walk to Eli Roundtree.
After Jiro Morales moved both runners over on a sacrifice, Erik Kirkpatrick ripped a single up the middle scoring Claudio and moving Roundtree to third. With left-handed Dalton Daniels at the plate, Keith called for the squeeze and Daniels executed it perfectly, bring home Roundtree and putting the Cowboys ahead 2-0.
“We’ve run that play all year,” Keith said about the squeeze. “Daniels handles the bat real well and (Hymel) was around the plate. It just fit.”
The Cowboys added an unearned run in the fourth inning. Morales scored when Delgado’s first baseman Cameron Hoffman muffed the throw from shortstop Tony Fortier, making the score 3-0.
Delgado (47-11) looked like it was going to break through in the fifth inning. Jordan Caillouet began the threat with a one-out single to center. After Cody Farrell worked the count to 3-2, Caillouet broke for second but instead of going home, Concepcion threw to first and got Caillouet in a rundown.
“That was on me,” Concepcion said. “I thought it was a good count to run. I threw over and got what I wanted.”
Delgado (47-11) got its run in the sixth inning when Brady Williamson led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout, and came home on a sacrifice fly by Luke Voiron.
When Connors finished batting in the top of the ninth, Justin Ferrell come on in relief. After a lead-off walk to Fortier, Ferrell sent down the next three batters to record his ninth save of the year.
“I was tired and a little bit nervous,” Ferrell said. “But my adrenaline was pumped up and I was ready to go. This game means everything. It’s what we’ve worked on all year.”
The Cowboys are making their first appearance in the College World Series since 2008. Their first game will be at 8:30 p.m. next Saturday against Navarro (Texas) College, winner of the Southern District.