GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Post-season elimination games have a certain excitement about them.
But the excitement that Barton and Chipola gave those in attendance Sunday night in an elimination game of the NJCAA World Series was a little extra special.
The final three innings were an absolute roller coaster of emotions as first-time participant Barton went toe-to-toe with the defending national champion Chipola Indians.
The teams traded home runs in the final inning, with the final blow coming in walk-off fashion. Unfortunately for the Cougars, that walk-off came from Chipola, ending Barton’s record-setting season.
Chipola stayed alive to defend its title with a 10-8 win.
The historic season for Barton ends at 47-15. Chipola moves along in the loser’s bracket with a 44-17 mark.
“Our guys fought,” Coach Brent Biggs said. “We just kept coming. Hats off to Chipola.”
Indeed, the Cougars did not go down without a fight.
After falling behind by five runs at one point, Barton rallied to tie the game in the seventh on a dramatic grand slam home run by Kaden Fowler that ended up in the parking lot at Suplizio Field.
Fowler’s blast was a shot down the right field line, scoring Chandler Kelley, Dawson Pomeroy and Brady Michel. It was Fowler’s first hit of the World Series and sent the Barton faithful into a frenzy.
“He’s isn’t quite 100 percent yet, but we needed him in the lineup,” Coach Biggs said Fowler, who missed time at the Region VI Championships with an wrist injury. “He had been struggling at the plate but that was a big-time home run for us.”
That excitement didn’t last as Chipola scored a run without a hit in the bottom of the seventh to take an 8-7 lead.
Down to its final three outs, Barton had more magic left in the form of Carson Engroff. Engroff led off the ninth with his fourth hit of the game – a no doubt solo home run to left-center to tie the game.
“He has done that all year,” Coach Biggs said of Engroff. “He has come up big in big spots for us all year.”
Fowler nearly gave Barton the lead in the ninth with a 3-run homer, but his towering shot to center field reached the wall some 400 feet away, where it was caught for the second out.
The man who gave up the home run to Engroff would be the man who ended the game as well.
Chipola closer Jared Howell, who also doubles as the designated hitter, took the first pitch he saw over the right-centered field fence for 1-out, 2-run home run to end the game and Barton’s season.
“They found a way to win,” Coach Biggs said. “They are the defending champions and showed why.”
Chipola took control of the game in the third inning. The Indians sent 10 batters to the plate, chased Barton started Zach Curry and plated five runs before the it was over. In fact, Barton used three pitchers during the inning before getting three outs.
The big blow came on a 2-run home run from leadoff hitter Edmond Americaan. By the time it was over, Chipola had a 6-1 lead.
From there, it was a long journey back to even the game in the seventh on Fowler’s home run that started the crazy final three innings of play.
Engroff ended with four hits while Bonar had two hits and two RBI and Kelley, entering the game when Harrison Denk was injured, finished with two hits as well. Fowler finish with those four RBI to lead Barton.
Pomeroy took the tough loss for Barton, giving up just two hits in his 2.2 innings of relief work – both in the final inning.
Americaan had three hits and three RBI for Chipola. Howell had two hits including the game winner and picked up the win to even his record at 3-3.
“This is a very special group,” Coach Biggs said. “You hate to see any season end. Especially this one. It’s been a fun one. But give credit to Chipola. We played pretty well, they just beat us.
“These sophomores leaving us set the tone last year and carried it through this year. I am proud of heck of this group.”