The Navajo Indians took advantage of some timely hits and some quality defense and pitching in the late innings over the weekend to claim another trophy in the Donnie Elliot Classic.
Navajo defeated Olustee 14-5 in the semi-finals and held off Granite 4-2 in the championship game to win the tournament in back-to-back seasons.
The Olustee match up was split over two days because of darkness. Olustee banged out seven hits off of Holdyn Mandrell over the four innings he pitched.
“Holdyn struggled with some command and it put Olustee hitters in fastball counts,” said coach Weston Winters. “To Olustee’s credit, they got to him some.”
Navajo took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Olustee then rattled out four runs in the third inning and added another in the fourth inning.
“We had a hard time seeing the ball in the outfield,” said coach Winters. “We made a couple of errors out there and it put Olustee out front of us.”
In the bottom half of the fourth, Navajo scored a couple of runs pulling within one at 5-4.
In the fifth inning, Navajo exploded for seven runs. Jacob Hall hit his second home run of the tournament by blasting a three-run shot to right field. Play was called for darkness and was planned to resume on Saturday.
After play continued in the Donnie Elliot Classic on Saturday, Granite downed Frederic 2-0 in the early game. Navajo and Olustee then continued their match-up from Friday.
The Indians added three more runs to defeat the Eagles 14-5.
The win earned Navajo the spot in the finals against the tournament host Granite.
Navajo had plan to turn their 2-0 deficit in the fourth inning of the finals into an advantage by the end of the game.
Navajo took fastballs from Granite pitching early in the game. When this happens, a pitcher gets comfortable with that pattern and since it worked early, it should work late in the game as well.
Unless the opponent does what I refer to as “flipping the switch.”
Coach Winters made a change. It wasn’t a lineup change. It was tactical adjustment.
Instead of taking early first pitch fastballs and letting the Granite pitcher work ahead in the count, the Indians chose to jump on those if the pattern still remained the same.
The pattern remained the same and Navajo put some offense together and scored four.
“We ambushed the fastballs in the fourth,” said Winters. “We set the Granite pitcher up some and it worked in this situation.”
Of course, Granite wasn’t going to go down at their own tournament without responding to that Navajo assault.
Curtis Goodson was solid for the Indians throwing five innings and striking out four Panthers. Goodson continued into the sixth inning on the mound.
The game was won in the sixth.
Granite packed the bags on the Indians with no outs. Winters called on freshman Holdyn Mandrell to again take the bump.
No outs and the bases loaded is an unfortunate situation for any reliever. Then consider this was a freshman coming into the game and not just any game.
This was the clutch situation in the finals of the Donnie Elliot Classic.
Mandrell got the key first out of the inning by striking out the next Granite hitter. With one out Mandrell induced the somewhat rare 1-2-3 double play to end the Granite attack.
He fielded the ground ball back to him, wisely threw to his senior catcher, Jake “hit machine” Hall as he had a foot on home plate. Hall caught the toss, and set his feet to throw the strike to first. That’s three outs and essentially put a dagger in any Granite hopes as the Panthers were quiet in the seventh inning.
Navajo gets the win 4-2 and won their second straight Donnie Elliot Classic as they go to 5-0 on the season.
Jacob hall was 2-3 with a double and two RBI. Colby Staggs went 2-4 with two singles.
“If this team will learn to play consistent,” said Winters. “We are going to be tough to beat.”
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076