Walters State tops Yavapai, 7-6, hangs on to win JUCO title |

Walters State tops Yavapai, 7-6, hangs on to win JUCO title

Grand Junction Free Press/Greg ReedWalters State's Jason Gray, left, greets Zac Bowman, who hit a double before coming around to score the Senators' first run in their 7-6 JUCO championship win on Saturday in Grand Junction.

GRAND JUNCTION – Surrounded by drama and dripping in sweat, Walters State got the job done. Sophomore pitcher Zane Stone halted one Yavapai rally after he replaced starter Craig Wojciechowski in the sixth inning, then quashed a second attack from the Roughriders in the eighth to lead the Senators to a 7-6 win and their first Junior College World Series championship Saturday at Suplizio Field.

Walters State designated hitter Justin Pickett broke a 5-5 tie in the top of the eighth with an opposite-field home run over the right field fence. Zac Bowman scored what turned out to be the game-winning run when he scooted in from third on Nick Belher’s sacrifice bunt.But Yavapai, who forced Walters State into a second attempt to earn the 2006 JUCO title on a 9-0 win Friday, refused to go quietly. The Roughriders halved Walters State’s lead to 7-6 on Troy Hanawa’s RBI triple in the bottom of the inning.After being dinged for a run, Stone got nasty.

The Senators reliever ended the threat when he forced Yavapai’s top hitter, Evan Leblanc, into an inning-ending popup to short. Leblanc came into Saturday’s game with a .529 tournament batting average. The Senators went down in order in the top of the ninth, but it turned out to be no problem.Stone matched the effort of opposing reliever Derek Tarapacki to send Walters State into a frenzy. Right after Aaron Asher’s game-ending groundout was recorded, the Senators mobbed the pitcher in jubilation.

It marked the first time in four JUCO appearances that the Senators were able to bring the national championship back with them to Morristown, Tenn. Walters State finished with the best record in the 10-team tournament at 5-1.The Senators won their first four JUCO contests, downing Connors State, Okla.; San Jacinto, Texas, twice; and Wallace State, Ala., before running into Yavapai Friday with a championship on the line for Walters State. The Roughriders prevented that celebration when they held the Senators scoreless for the first time in 68 games this season, coasting to a 9-0 win, to set up Saturday’s contest.

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