Bulldogs knock off Navarro at regional tournament
By Johnny Green
BRENHAM, Texas—Eleven runs, 16 hits, five home runs—and Justin Fowler had no hand in any of them.
Yet Fowler was perhaps the key figure in Texarana College’s 11-6 victory over Navarro Sunday in the second round of the Region XIV baseball tournament at Blinn College.
Fowler, last year’s Bulldog ace but a nearly-forgotten man this season, pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Tanner Bailey, allowing TC to take control of the game against Navarro, which had beaten the Bulldogs three times in the conference round-robin schedule.
“Justin’s year has been up and down, not the type of year he wanted,” said TC coach Will Bolt. “But not one time has he wavered from the team, and he’s never felt sorry for himself. I think he’s the story of the day, coming in and getting some stops when we needed it. He pitched his tail off today.”
Fowler did weaken in the eighth, walking the first two batters he faced, but closer Joaquin Hinojosa did his job, coming on to strike out five of the six batters he faced.
“I felt good today. I got ahead early, and it works a lot better when you throw strike one,” said Fowler, a sophomore from Diana, Texas. “I got a little tired in my last inning, and my arm started dragging a little bit. I started leaving everything up.”
There were plenty of other heroes on the day for the Bulldogs, who play the winner of the late game between Panola College and San Jacinto North into today’s 5 p.m. semifinals.
David Allday, the East Division’s Player of the Year and an all-region selection, was 4 for 4 with a double and his 10th home run, a prodigious blast to dead center, and scored four runs.. The former Texas High standout is 6 for 7 in two tournament games.
Thomas Watson slugged his seventh and eighth home runs, driving in five runs. He also doubled.
Brian Ellis also had three hits, and it was his 2-run shot to right that finished Navarro starter Logan Chitwood in a 5-run fifth. Watson’s second homer of the game, a 3-run shot to left, came off reliever Austin Pruitt to cap the big inning.
“I’ve never seen anything like the way our hitters squared the ball up in those couple of innings,” Bolt said. “We knew what we were looking for, and when got it we didn’t miss it.”
Lance Marvel’s seventh homer of the season, almost a replica of Allday’s, was the only solo round-tripper for TC. It came in the fourth inning and tied the game after Jordy Snikeris’ 2-run single had pulled the Bulldogs within one earlier in the frame.
Bailey struggled early on, giving up a 2-run homer to Bobby Buckner, son of former major leaguer Bill Buckner, that momentarily put Navarro up 5-2. He was pulled in the fifth after yielding a solo home run to Joey Fuda and a single.
The first batter Fowler faced reached on an error, but he settled in to retire nine batters in a row before the two walks in the eighth. Hinojosa then did his thing.
“He plays right field, hits in the four hole, then comes in and throws two scoreless innings,” Bolt said. “He did a good job, and we’re going to need him the rest of the tournament.”
Allday is confident the Bulldogs will punch the school’s third ticket to the JUCO World Series.
“We definitely have a chance to win it,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of pitching left, all the hitters are coming around, everybody’s seeing the ball real well and we’re putting up a lot of runs. We’re going to win it.”
Zach Fowler is scheduled to take the mound for the Bulldogs today.
Galveston and Angelina were the first teams eliminated on Sunday. Host Blinn downed Galveston, 14-6, and Alvin College knocked off Angelina, 7-2. Angelina dropped a 6-2 decision to San Jacinto North in Saturday’s late game.
Alvin and Navarro play the first elimination game today at 10 a.m. with Blinn taking on the Panola-San Jacinto loser at 1. The winners of those two games will play again at 8 p.m.
Texarkana College 020 350 100 — 11 16 3
Navarro College 113 010 000 — 6 8 0
Tanner Bailey, Justin Fowler (5), Joaquin Hinojosa (8) and Jordy Snikeris. Logan Chitwood, Austin Pruitt (5), Jason Drymalia (9) and Mark Mayfield, Justin Snider (9). WP-Fowler (5-3). LP-Chitwood. HR: TC-David Allday, 2nd, 1 on; Thomas Watson, 4th, 1 on; Lance Marvel, 4th, none on; Brian Ellis, 5th, 1 on; Watson, 5th, 2 on; NC-Bobby Buckner, 3rd, 1 on; Joey Fuda, 5th, none on.