Catamounts Claw for More at JUCO World Series

Smithmyer JUCO

Potomac State (W. Va.) pitcher Andy Smithmyer, right, is congratulated on Thursday
night after pitching out of a bases-loaded jam during the Catamounts’ 11-3 victory
over Central Arizona in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field.
Potomac State faces the Vaqueros again at 7:30 p.m. tonight with a trip to the title
game on the line. Navarro (Texas) College awaits the winner for Saturday night’s title game.

By Allen Gemaehlich Grand Junction Sentinel

Potomac State (W.Va.) College doesn’t hit a lot of home runs or steal a lot of bases.

The Catamounts don’t make the spectacular plays, but they play solid, fundamentally sound baseball and get the job done.

They did again Thursday night, upending No. 1-ranked Central Arizona 11-3 to force a rematch with the Vaqueros at 7:30 tonight. The winner plays No. 3 Navarro (Texas) College for the national championship at 7:30 Saturday night.

“We’re not a flashy team,” Potomac State coach Doug Little said. “We don’t have a ton of talent, but we play hard and we play together. Things have to fall into place for us.”

Potomac State starter Andy Smithmyer pitched a gem and the defense, which has the best fielding percentage in the World Series, didn’t give the Vaqueros any extra opportunities.

Smithmyer limited Central Arizona to three runs on seven hits, five walks and struck out eight in 71⁄3 innings for his second victory of the World Series.

“Andy did a great job,” Little said. “He’s a hard worker. He puts in a lot of overtime, conditioning himself. He’s worked himself into a good pitcher because of hard work.”

The sophomore worked out of a couple of big jams in the fourth and fifth innings.

The Vaqueros (55-14) loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth on a walk, single and hit batter, but Smithmyer struck out the No. 6, 7 and 8 hitters to get out of the jam and keep the game even.

“I pretty much gave everyone a heart attack in (the dugout),” Smithmyer said. “I was actually clowning around saying maybe I should just go from the stretch. I just had to bear down and throw it.”

Potomac (37-11) came back with one run in the top of the fifth when Jake Ringold doubled over Keenyn Walker in center field to score Ryan Bennett, who walked with two outs, for a 2-1 lead.

Smithmyer found himself in another jam in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Again, he pitched out of it, getting an infield fly for one out and a strikeout.

“He’s done that this season, he’ll get in jams but work himself out,” Little said. “His defense played well behind him. He does a good job of pitching to contact.”

The Catamounts broke the game open in the sixth inning, taking advantage of several bases-loaded opportunities.

Ben Miller hit into a fielder’s choice but Central Arizona failed to get the second out. One walk later, Bennett hit a bases-clearing, three-run double over the outfielders’ heads.

“I’ve been struggling all tournament, I was just trying to barrel up on the ball,” Bennett said. “He got behind 3-1, so he came with a fastball and I was able to get the barrel on it, drive it in the gap.”

It was the second time a Potomac State batter hit the ball over the Central Arizona outfielders. The Catamounts led 6-1.

“We’ve got to play better defense, throw stikes and play our baseball game,” Central Arizona coach Jon Wente said. “When you have a lot of guys on base and you’re consistently 2-0 at the plate, that makes them feel really nice in the box.”

Central Arizona made a pitching change, but Jordan Lewis walked three consecutive batters to bring in another run.

After another pitching change, the Catamounts pushed one more across on a sacrifice fly for an 8-1 lead.

The Vaqueros got one run back in the sixth on a RBI single from Jorge Flores.

Central Arizona pushed one more across in the seventh when Nick Carrillo walked and scored on a wild pitch, but the Vaqueros still trailed 8-3.

Potomac added three runs in the eighth to put the game away. Zach Markel doubled home Nate Antone and scored on J.K. Filauro’s single. Jason Driver added a sacrifice fly.

Central Arizona took advantage of a walk and its speed to jump out to a 1-0 lead without the benefit of a hit. Walker walked, stole second base, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly in the first.

Potomac State’s Ben Miller hit a leadoff home run into the parking lot in the third to tie the game 1-1. It was Miller’s first home run of the season.