GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — McLennan Community College has needed everybody to hit throughout its dangerous lineup to reel off 20 straight wins.
That was certainly the case in the Highlanders’ second NJCAA World Series win.
No. 4 MCC rallied from deficits three times to overcome No. 10 Indian Hills, 13-11, to remain in the winners bracket late Monday night at Sam Suplizio Field.
Every starter in the Highlanders’ lineup contributed to their 12-hit attack. Blake Jackson, Garrett Martin, Alex Lopez and Marquis Jackson each blasted homers as MCC advanced to Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. matchup against No. 3 San Jacinto, which remained unbeaten in the World Series with a 7-4 win over No. 6 Central Arizona on Tuesday night.
“That’s an instant classic right there,” said MCC coach Mitch Thompson. “That’s two teams going back and forth at each other. I give (Indian Hills coach) Matt Torrez a lot of credit because they put a lot of pressure. I loved the way our team fought back and stayed in the game.”
After cruising to a 7-0 win over No. 7 Florence-Darlington Tech to open the World Series on Saturday, MCC rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the first inning, a 7-3 deficit in the second inning, and an 11-9 deficit in the fifth inning against the Warriors (44-15).
The Highlanders (44-16) delivered a three-run seventh inning to finally take the lead for good.
Douglas Rojas walked Dominic Tamez and Lopez to open the seventh before Jaylen Williams loaded the bases with a single. Tamez scored on a wild pitch before Jackson gave the Highlanders a 12-11 lead with a two-run single off Charles Lefebvre.
Williams came through again in the eighth when he drilled a double to score Lopez to stretch MCC’s lead to 13-11.
The Highlanders then put the ball in the hands of closer Landry Wideman in the ninth, but picking up his seventh save of the season was far from easy.
Ben Tachioka and C.J. Castillo opened the inning with singles before Tucker Ebest lined out to Williams in centerfield. Williams quickly threw to shortstop Ben Rosengard to nail Tachioka off second base for the double play.
Wideman, MCC’s fifth reliever of the night, finished off the wild win by forcing cleanup hitter Noel Perez to ground out. The Highlanders overcame nine walks allowed by their pitching staff.
“We said all along that the strength of our team was our pitching depth, and it definitely came into play today,” Thompson said. “Their style is different and we prepared for that style. I told our guys they can bunt for hits like nobody’s business. They can steal bases on you if you don’t control the running game.”
It was a crazy game from the start. After the Warriors scored a pair of runs in the top of the first, MCC answered with three in the bottom of the inning as Blake Jackson blasted a two-run homer and Martin set a single-season school record with his 20th homer off Wyatt Wendell to take a 3-2 lead.
“I was pretty jacked up, I felt a lot of nerves,” Jackson said. “I was excited to get this game going. We gave up some runs in the first, but that’s not going to stop us. We’re not afraid to face adversity and go back at them.”
The Warriors chased MCC starting pitcher Brady Rose out of the game with a five-run second inning that was highlighted by Perez’s three-run homer.
“Brady Rose has dominated almost every team he’s faced this year, and we can’t get him out of the second inning this time, and that’s uncharacteristic for Brady,” Thompson said. “I promise you Brady will get the ball again in this tournament, and I’ll feel 100 percent good about it.”
The Highlanders grabbed a 9-8 lead as they answered with a six-run fourth inning that began with Lopez’s homer followed by Marquis Jackson’s two-run homer.
The Warriors came back with a three-run fifth to take an 11-9 edge that featured Castillo’s two-run single.
Riggs Threadgill (4-3) picked up the win for MCC as he allowed two hits, a walk and no earned runs in 2.2 innings.