Coastal Bend College head baseball coach Brian Bauerle is not a "small-ball" kind of guy. He prefers home runs and big slugging percentages to bunts, steals, and scoring one run at a time; but today that "small-ball" strategy gave the Cougars and the college their first ever Region XIV Championship in a - much tighter than it appears - 5-1 victory over Tyler Junior College.
The win in the seventh game of the Regional Championship series came on the heels of home run derby loss to TJC on Saturday, where the Apaches pounded Cougar pitching to a 16-2 loss including five monster home runs. Saturday was a new game and a new day. Sophomore Bo Gonzales took to the mound for the Cougars and was masterful keeping the vaunted Apache hitters off balance. Gonzales pitched six innings, striking out five, giving up just one hit and one run to earn his third win of the season. He walked off the mound to a rousing ovation while encouraging his teammates to keep fighting.
The offensive stat line for the Cougars isn't impressive at first glance with only one extra base hit. Upon closer examination you see they took advantage of eight walks and three errors by stealing two bases - Kody Kolb and Ronnie Bailey Jr, gathering four hits by Kolb, Kyler Bumstead, Bailey and Kyle McMahan, while executing two perfectly timed sacrifice bunts - Kyle McShaffry and JB Trees. It wasn't much but Bauerle and his charges made every scrap and nugget count.
Gonzales gave way to Luis Martinez who pitched the seventh and two thirds of the eight for the Cougars striking out two, giving up no hits, but giving up four walks including loading the bases in the eight. Trent Sholders came on to get that final out in the eighth via a strikeout. Sholders had his work cut out for him in the top of the ninth as he faced the meat of the Apache line-up. Sholders scattered three strike outs with two walk and one hit to record the final out with the bases loaded, and give him his 12th save of the year.
With that the Cougars were Champions, and will now host the NJCAA Division III District C East Divisional Tournament May 9-12. They will be joined in this double-elimination tournament by three teams from Region V, with the winner to meet the District C West Divisional Tournament winner for a best of three game District C Championship series.