GRAND JUNCTION, CO – No. 1 Walters State fought for nine innings on Friday evening in their NJCAA DI JUCO World Series semifinal matchup against No. 6 Central Arizona but were unable to come out on top, falling 7-4.
The loss ended the Senators season with a 60-7 record. Walters State were TCCAA Regular Season Champions, TCCAA and Region VII Tournament Champions and Appalachian District Champions.
As a team, the Senators led the country in home runs. They had the Conference Player of the Year in Caleb McNeely and the Conference Pitcher of the Year in Kohl Drake. The Senators were ranked No. 1 for nine weeks during the regular season.
"If you think about what this team accomplished and the guys that were sophomores here last year, it's remarkable," Walters State coach Dave Shelton said. "They had consecutive 60-win seasons and two trips to the World Series. That's pretty impressive. There's a lot of kids out there that don't get to win 60 games in their college careers. To legitimately get out here and compete for a National Championship both seasons is pretty special."
The sophomore class at Walters State combined in their two years to go 121-14. They won the conference, region and districts both years and finished with a seventh and third-place finish at the World Series.
For those sophomores, this season was one they will never forget.
"This year's team had the most chemistry for a team that I have ever been on," McNeely said. "We played as a team and not as individuals. It was really special."
"For the most part, we were one," Walters State right fielder Nick Block said. "We weren't just playing for ourselves. This season was one to remember."
On Friday, the Senators had nine hits but were only able to piece together four runs as Central Arizona's Tyler Woessner and Shane Spencer kept them at bay. The Senators left nine on base.
At the plate, Nick Block led the way with two hits, one being a home run. Caleb Marmo also hit a home run while Kory Klingenbeck and Colby Backus each tripled.
"Their pitcher made a big pitch every time he needed to," Shelton said. "That's what a horse does. I felt like we battled and competed the entire game, and that is all you can ask of the guys."
On the mound, Geo Rivera got the start and pitched six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits while striking out 10.
Rivera battled his entire outing, leaving seven on base throughout the contest.
"I could not be more proud of Geo and the job he did," Shelton said. "He kept us in there. I knew he was the one guy that we had left that could give us a chance."
Woessner and Rivera battled back-and-forth at the start with three-and-a half scoreless innings. The Senators finally broke through in the bottom of the fourth as Backus led off the inning with a triple and Klingenbeck grounded out to score Backus and make it 1-0.
Later in the inning, Andrew Ott and Dalton McLain each singled and advanced on a wild pitch. Marmo was next up and hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Ott and made it 2-0.
However, Central Arizona answered back in the top of the fifth with three runs to go up 3-2. Not bothered by it, Block immediately tied the game back up as he led off the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot.
Once again, Central Arizona responded by scoring one in the sixth, one in the seventh and two in the eighth to go up 7-3.
The Senators had one last chance in the bottom of the ninth as Marmo led off with a home run just over the fence in left to make it 7-4.
However, that was all the Senators could muster.
"They made great pitches when they needed to," Block said. "We had guys on in the majority of the innings but couldn't get that one hit and rally from there. They just did a good job."