TJC bats lift team to win

Tyler Junior College's Nico Moran rounds third base on his way to home plate Saturday afternoon during TJC's 14-4 win over Brookhaven College at Mike Carter Field. The Apaches won the series 2-0 to advance to the District C baseball tournament. (Sarah A. Miller | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

The Tyler Junior College Apaches got their bats going — banging out 17 hits — to knock out Brookhaven 14-4 on Saturday, winning the Metro Athletic Conference Play-In series at Mike Carter Field and keeping their World Series bid alive.

With the win, Tyler (33-18) advances to the District C Baseball Tournament next week at Mike Carter Field, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA Division III World Series. The Apaches won the best-of-three series with the Bears, 2-0. The four-team District C tourney begins on Friday. Tyler will join MAC teams Eastfield, Richland and North Lake, who defeated North Arkansas in their play-in series.

TJC won Game 1 against Brookhaven, 2-1, on Friday.

“We got behind 3-0, and our guys did a great job of staying focused,” Apaches coach Doug Wren said. “We got a couple of big innings up, and it felt good to close out the series and move on.”

Jeremy Christian led the Apaches with a 3 for 5 day, including four RBIs. Jon McManemin added three hits as well with two RBIs. Collecting two hits apiece were Nico Moran (2 RBIs), Estevan Hernandez (RBI), Taylor Drolette (3 RBIs) and Tyler Ernest (RBI).

With the Apaches the visitors for game two, Brookhaven (21-30) actually started the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. After Apaches catcher Trevor Clifton threw out Jeffrey Sealy trying to steal second, Mac James homered over the left field wall for a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third, Apaches pitcher Payton Smith was cruising with two outs when Tyler Edwards hit a chopper to second base that took a strange bounce off the grass and landed for a single. Matt Stein was hit by a pitch, and then Garrett Hackley hit an infield ball to deep short. The throw to first bounced short, and Edwards came in to score. Ross Higier then singled to bring in Stein, and Smith left the mound with Tyler down 3-0.

Relief pitcher Kyle Sargent came in and walked Logan Tucker to load the bases, but then got a line drive out to left field to end the inning.

Tyler got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth, with Moran reaching after getting hit by a pitch, his Apache-record-setting 16th of the year.

McManemin followed with a single to left. Then with one out, Drolette took a full-count pitch and drilled it up the middle into center field for an RBI single. After a pop out to right, Hunter Sutton drew a walk to load the bases. Christian drove the first pitch into left field past a diving Higier, and wound up with a three-RBI triple to give Tyler the lead, 4-3.

“Our guys were making adjustments,” Wren said of his team’s four-run fourth. “A lot of what we got in that inning was just making adjustments the second time through the lineup.”

In the bottom of the fourth Brookhaven got leadoff hitter Adonys Wright on with a single, but after a sacrifice moved him to second, Wright tried to take home on a single, and was thrown out from left field by Sutton. However, after James’ single, he took third on an error on a pick-off throw, and then came home on a throwing error on a routine infield grounder to tie the game at four.

In the top of the sixth, the Apaches threw open the floodgates with seven runs. Ernest led off with a single for the Apaches. Sutton followed with an infield grounder that was misplayed by shortstop Logan Tucker, and then a passed ball moved the runners to second and third. Christian drilled a single to left for his fourth RBI of the game, and a 5-4 Tyler lead.

Justin Rhea came to the mound for Brookhaven with two on and no outs, and walked Trevor Clifton to load the bases. Moran hit a bloop double into center field to score two for a 7-4 lead. After McManemin was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, Hernandez drew a four-pitch RBI walk to make it 8-4, and Rhea left the game for reliever Frankie Valdez.

Valdez gave up a two-RBI stand-up double into the left field corner by Drolette, which put Tyler up 10-4. Ernest got his second hit of the inning, an RBI single to left for an 11-4 lead, and Valdez left the game. Brice Springer came in as the fourth pitcher of the inning, and got the final outs.

Tyler did more damage in the ninth on a fielding error, and a two-RBI double from McManemin for a 14-4 final score.

Smith started for the Apaches and went two and a third innings, giving up seven hits and three runs, one of those earned. Sargent pitched in relief and got the win, with 3 1-3 innings of work resulting in two hits and an unearned run. Sargent struck out two and walked one. Three other pitchers took the mound for Tyler.

“We wanted to keep our pitchers sharp, and keep them in their regular roles,” Wren said. “Whether that’s with one out, or Zach Aitken pitching the ninth, we just wanted to do that so they don’t have a two-week layoff between the last time they pitched and next week’s tournament.”

The winner of the District C Tournament advances to the NJCAA Division III World Series, which is scheduled for May 19-25, also at Mike Carter. The Apaches won the national title in 2007 and were runners-up in 2010.

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