Greeneville, TN – Little things become big depending on the moment. It's a lesson the Delta College baseball team learned the hard way on Monday as they were knocked out of the NJCAA World Series after falling to Century, Minnesota 13-8. It ends the best season in Delta baseball history as the Pioneers finish with a 35-23 record and fifth place nationally.
"It's disappointing, sure because we're better than what we showed down here," said head coach Danny Smith. "But it's also a record-breaking season and we have more to be proud of than we do to be disappointed in. Overall, we broke 14 team and individual records so there's a lot to be proud of both from a team perspective and as individuals."
Things looked great for Delta against Century as they had runners at second and third with no outs in the top of the first inning. But a pop out and a double-play on a botched suicide squeeze – the second in two games – quickly ended the threat. When Delta failed to score in the top of the second, the momentum shifted towards Century and they took advantage.
Five walks and a hit batter ended the day for Pioneer starting pitcher Jake Gross as the Wood Ducks plated four runs before relief pitcher Guy Henika could stop the bleeding. Down 4-0 heading in to the top of the third, Delta responded with two runs of their own as Justin Heinlein and Hunter David scored- on a two-out single by Tyler Snover to cut the lead in half. After a 1-2-3 inning by Henika in the bottom of the third, Delta was poised to take the lead.
Ty Robbins got things started offensively with a double to right-center before Heinlein drew a one-out walk. Both would come around to score on Zack Booth's double to left field to tie the game and then Booth would give Delta the lead as he scooted home on a Hunter David single to center to make it 5-4.
Century tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the inning, though, on three singles and a two-out bases loaded walk. Neither team would score in the fifth and with two outs and nobody on in the sixth, Delta's offense came to life once again.
David and Z Westley both reached base before back to back singles off the bat of Dean Marais and Snover made it 7-5 in favor of Delta. Jeff Wright would then relieve Henika in the bottom half of the inning, giving up two runs on three hits that once again tied the score up.
In the top of the seventh, Robbins reached on an error before swiping second base and moving to third on a fielder's choice. With two outs and the Century pitcher going from the wind up, Robbins broke for home on a straight steal, beating the tag by the Wood Duck catcher and giving Delta the lead once again, 8-7.
But that would be the last highlight for DC, as Century tied the game at 8-8 in the bottom of the frame and then scored an additional five runs after a crucial Pioneer error to put the game out of reach at 13-8.
"Two big errors in two separate innings of two separate games led to 15 unearned runs down here," said Smith of his team's key miscues. "Add to that we were horrible at executing our bunting game and you can see why we went 1-2."
Zack Booth and Hunter David both had huge games offensively for Delta, going a combined 7-12 from the top of the order while collecting three RBI and three runs. Snover and Robbins each went 2-for-5 with Snover adding three RBI's of his own and Robbins scoring twice while swiping three bags.
Jeff Wright took the loss for Delta on the mound, throwing an inning and a third while allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks. He finishes the season with a 1-2 record.
Delta finishes fifth in the country with the loss and will lose fourteen sophomores for 2018, including five starting position players, four starting pitchers and four spot-starters/relievers.
"You always have to rebuild at JUCO," said Smith. "We have a lot of experience returning on this squad that now know what it takes to get here and hopefully can teach our incoming freshman what it takes as well."
"But, no matter what next year holds, this was the first squad to get us here and there can never be another first."