The End ... Again

Errors aid Chipola’s 7-run 1st as Vikings finish up 42-14
“We’ve got to defend the field better. We’ve got to make pitches. We didn’t play well enough, bottom line. You play a team like that, you can’t be average. And we were average. We made mistakes that cost us.” -- SJR State coach Ross Jones said

LAKELAND -- The second-winningest season in St. Johns River State College baseball history was the product of pitching, hitting and defense.

Its end was chalked up to its failure to produce in all three areas.

The Vikings bungled two potential double plays in Chipola’s seven-run first inning, gave up six runs after having battled back within two, and left 14 on base in seven innings. So went their exit from the FCSAA state tournament, 13-5, on a warm Wednesday afternoon at Henley Field.

St. Johns wound up 42-14, the win total exceeded only by last year’s 47-10 team.

It was a remarkable display of resiliency for Chipola (41-15), which lost 10-9 to Santa Fe on a walk-off home run Wednesday morning. The game had been suspended in the first inning because of heavy Tuesday rain.

The Vikings were rested, but not ready.

“We’ve got to defend the field better. We’ve got to make pitches,” SJR State coach Ross Jones said. “We didn’t play well enough, bottom line. You play a team like that, you can’t be average. And we were average. We made mistakes that cost us.”

Two of the biggest came in the fateful first after the Vikings had scored two runs in the top half.

With one out and Keiner Colmenarez on first after having been hit by a pitch, St. Johns misplayed consecutive grounders up the middle, either of which could have ended the inning. Reynaldo Rivera followed with an RBI single, Reese Cooley a two-run double. A two-out walk loaded the bases, then No. 9 batter Myles Edwards drilled Andrew Vaccacio’s 1-2 pitch out to left.

Grand slam. 7-2.

Having given up seven runs – five unearned – Vaccacio (1-1) was finished after the first. Daniel Williams came on to pitch two scoreless innings and the Vikings appeared to steady themselves, getting three runs in the top of the fourth to draw within two runs.

It started when Cole Perry tripled to dead center. Andrew Williamson walked and Omar Villaman doubled, scoring Perry. Nick Owens walked, loading the bases and with one out, Alec Dowell sent a two-run single up the middle to make it 7-5. The bases were loaded again after Nick Koslowski drew a two-out walk, but then Chipola reliever Addison Reed (7-3) struck out Matthew Rhodes to end the inning.

Rivera answered with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fourth. The Indians got to Williams and Ryan Ross for four run, five hits and one error in the fifth, the big blow an RBI triple by Colmenarez.

“We gave up hits on 0-2 pitches,” Jones said.

There would be no coming back from 13-5. The game was stopped in the middle of the seventh inning by the mercy rule.

Dowell’s sacrifice fly and Koslowski’s RBI groundout plated the first-inning runs for St. Johns, which had a chance at a bigger start after having loaded the bases with nobody out.

The 14 the Vikings stranded Wednesday stood in sharp contrast to the three they left on base in Tuesday’s 9-7 victory over Northwest Florida State.

Villaman doubled twice in three at-bats. Dowell was 1-4 with three RBI. The other St. Johns hits were Perry’s triple and singles by Owens, Koslowski, Wes Weeks and Andy Toelken.

Jones saluted his sophomores afterward.

“We’ve gotten past the two-and-outs,” said Jones, whose first three state tournament clubs went 0-2 in Lakeland before making the semifinals in 2015. “We’re learning how to play in this tournament, as tough as it is.

“This group of sophomores has done a lot. It’s going to be up to the returning freshmen and the incoming kids to push the ceiling up.”