In a tough battle of the two Texas representatives at the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado, the McLennan Highlanders fell to the San Jacinto Gators 9-8.
San Jacinto jumped out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the bottom of the second. Aaron Bond was hit by the pitch to lead off the inning. Nick Perez and Mario Moralez both walked, loading the bases. Sergio Macias followed with a grand slam.
The Highlanders began to chip away at the Gator lead, scoring two runs in the top of the third. Chris Roller was safe at first on an error and scored on a double by Joe Breaux. Joe Breaux then moved to third on a fly out by Josh Breaux and scored on a single by Nic Motley.
The Gators added two runs in the bottom of the third. Michael Smith and Luke Watson both singled, and Perez walked to load the bases. Moralez then singled to score Smith and Watson.
McLennan responded with four runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game at six. Cole Haring drew a lead-off walk but was out at second on a fielder's choice by Brock Morrison. Roller singled to score Morrison, and Joe Breaux singled to score Roller. Josh Breaux followed with a two-run bomb to left field.
San Jacinto took the lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Macias and Tristan Metten both walked. Smith followed with a fielder's choice, putting Metten out at second. Macias then scored on a sacrifice by Watson.
The Gators added another run with Aaron Bond's homer in the seventh.
The Highlanders never gave up, tying the game at eight in the top of the eighth inning. Griffin Paxton walked and Haring singled. Both runners scored on a double by Roller.
San Jacinto stole the win with a run in the bottom of the ninth as Macias doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a hit by Smith.
"When you look back at it, it was a heavy-weight battle with two really good ball clubs competing against each other," head coach Mitch Thompson said. "San Jac competed great and played very well. They took advantage of every opportunity that we gave them. I think the difference in the ball game is that when we walked them, we did it with nobody out; and we created some innings for them, made it very difficult for us to get out of the inning. When they walked us, they walked us with two men out and then had to just make one pitch or get one more out to get out of it."
"I'm really proud of my team, the way they came back, and the way they battled all day long. At the end of the day, you just tip your hat to the other team. They are very good and they competed very well," Thompson said.
"I like to think we are a team of fighters, and whenever we are down, we are just going to keep coming back at you. Unfortunately, we didn't capitalize when we could have, and they did," Roller said. "We are a bunch of fighters, and we've been in this spot before. It's going to make it that much sweeter for us to come back and win."
San Jacinto 9, McLennan 8
McLennan 002 400 020 – 8 7 0
San Jacinto 042 100 101 – 9 8 3
Bailey Horn, Kyrell Miller (4), Palmer Wenzel (9) and Josh Breaux. Jacob Cantleberry, Aaron George (5), Donny Diaz (8) and Herbert Iser, Brett Wright (9). WP: Diaz; LP: Wenzel. Leading hitters – McLennan: Chris Roller (2-4, 2B, 3 RBI), Joe Breaux (2-3, 2B, RBI), Josh Breaux (1-4, HR, 2 RBI) and Nic Motley (1-3, RBI); San Jacinto: Michael Smith (2-5, RBI), Luke Watson (1-3, RBI), Aaron Bond (1-3, HR, RBI), Mario Moralez (2-3, 2 RBI) and Sergio Macias (2-3, 2B, HR, 4 RBI). Record: McLennan 52-12.