Cowley College proved that staying in the winner’s bracket side of the Region VI baseball tournament is the way to go.
The Tigers cruised to an 8-2 victory over Johnson County on Monday to advance to the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., for the first time since 2009 and one year after the Tigers entered Region VI as the No. 1 team in the nation and went home empty-handed.
Johnson County knocked off No. 1 seed Neosho County 2-1 earlier Monday. Cowley won four straight games to win the championship.
“This team is awesome, from where we started to where we are right now has been fun to watch,” Cowley coach Dave Burroughs said. “I’m so proud of our guys, they knew what they had to do and played one game at a time.”
Cowley’s offense didn’t take long to get in gear as they scored four runs in the first. Abdiel Alicea had an RBI triple, followed by an RBI double from Connor Litton and a two-run home run from Caleb Eldridge.
“The first inning is where you have to set the tone,” Litton said. “We just really took it at them and didn’t look back.”
The Tigers pounded out two more runs in the second. After one run in the third and one run in the fourth, Cowley was held scoreless for the remainder of the game. Litton led the offensive firepower, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.
“It’s been fun to watch him progress and get better,” Burroughs said. “Connor had a great day, that’s why he’s in the three hole.
Johnson County (46-19) stranded sever runners on base.
Cowley (45-16) starting pitcher Ben Strahm went 7 ⅓ innings for the Tigers on the bump, while allowing nine hits and two runs. Justin McGregor came in in relief of Strahm in the eighth inning, facing six batters, striking out two and allowing a hit.
“Ben was huge, we kind of knew he was going to pitch good,” Burroughs said. “Our pitching staff in general has been unreal. Pitching and defense will win you championships and we’re a testament to that.”
2 10 2
8 7 1
W—Strahm, L—LaPlante. HR—Johnson Co., Rogers; Cowley, Eldridge
Johnson County batting—Watson 1-4, Burgess 2-4, Anderson 1-3, Nickle 1-4, Rogers 2-3, Crosby 0-4, Ollinger 2-4, Herrenbruck 1-4, McMurray 0-4
Cowley batting—Thompson 0-3, Alicea 1-3, Litton 3-4, Eldridge 1-4, Knudsen 0-1, Means 0-3, Fischer 0-4, Daniel 1-4, Spain 1-4
Johnson County pitching—LaPlante 0.0 IP-4 ER, Stanek 2.0-2, Leitch 5-1, Ward 1-0
Cowley pitching—Strahm 7.1 IP-2 ER, McGregor 1.2-0