GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — McLennan Community College ace Logan Henderson wasn’t fazed by Florence-Darlington Tech’s gaudy .352 batting average and prodigious power.
Henderson dominated the No. 7 Stingers like nearly every other team he’s faced as he amassed 14 strikeouts in eight innings to lead the No. 4 Highlanders to a 7-0 win Saturday morning in the NJCAA World Series opener at Sam Suplizio Field.
With 152 strikeouts, Henderson (9-2) leads the country and set an MCC single-season record. The freshman right-hander allowed just five singles and a walk against the Stingers (46-7) as the Highlanders (43-16) won their 19th straight game.
“For the first game of the tournament to score seven, throw a shutout and win, I’ll take it 100 times in a row,” said MCC coach Mitch Thompson. “The first day of the tournament there’s obviously jitters. We felt really good about having Logan out on the mound to compete for us. He was fantastic.”
The Highlanders advanced to Monday’s 8:30 p.m. winners bracket matchup against No. 10 Indian Hills, which pulled off a 10-3 upset of No. 1 Crowder on Saturday.
It was déjà vu for the Highlanders who opened the 2017 World Series with a 10-1 win over the Stingers in their last appearance in Grand Junction.
With the dry air and Grand Junction sitting at nearly 4,600 feet, balls usually fly out of the ballpark. That just made Henderson’s performance even more impressive.
Henderson gave MCC pitching coach James Leverton a great deal of credit for calling the right pitches.
“It’s easy to throw when you’ve got Coach Leverton calling the pitches and Dominic (Tamez) behind the plate,” Henderson said. “There’s a lot of trust. I just went out there and tried to do the same thing I’ve been doing all year.”
While Henderson didn’t allow any runners past second base, the Highlanders were all over the basepaths as they pieced together a 14-hit attack led by Miguel Santos and Jaylen Williams with three hits apiece.
“I don’t think we swung the bats overly well, but we got some hits and opened it up early, and we were able to calm down a little bit,” Thompson said.
MCC took command with a three-run first inning against Stingers starter Nathan Williams.
Santos led off the inning with a walk and scored on Garrett Martin’s triple. Mason Greer followed with a two-run homer over the right-field fence for his 16th of the season.
“In the first inning everybody was a little nervous,” Greer said. “But once we got going we felt good, and it’s easy to play with Logan on the mound. You just get a couple of runs and we’ll be set to go.”
Santos pounded a two-out solo homer over the left-field fence to push MCC’s lead to 4-0 in the second inning.
After a scoreless third inning, MCC tacked on two more runs in the fourth.
MCC loaded the bases with consecutive singles by Williams, Izzy Lopez and Santos. With two outs, reliever Jorge Oleaga was called for a balk to allow Williams to score. Greer followed with a run-scoring single to extend MCC’s lead to 6-0.
The Highlanders didn’t score again until the eighth when Williams doubled and scored on Santos’ single.
Gray Harrison pitched the final inning for the Highlanders as he retired three straight batters after Gary Lora reached on an error.