The Western Oklahoma State College Pioneers knew going into the game that it would be a tough one.
Their defeat in the second round of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II World Series was to the Mercer Vikings. The Pioneer’s plan was to come into the game and make up for the mistakes that were made in the previous game. They wanted this win. They wanted to advance to the semifinals. They wanted the championship.
Unfortunately, the Mercer Vikings had other plans.
The game was scoreless until the third inning when the Vikings opened it up and took a 2-0 lead on player Austin Constantini’s single to right field. Anthony Boselli put himself in scoring position on a Pioneer error and Constantini drove him in. Not long after, Anthony Peroni put a line drive into right field and Constantini crossed home plate. The inning would end without anymore damage, but Mercer had drawn first blood and the Pioneer’s were now playing catch-up.
When the Pioneers stepped up to bat, they wanted to grip the lead tight and keep on running. Jordany Santiago walked, but was aggressive on the base path stealing second and advancing to third on an error. Santiago was doing everything he could to put a run on the board for Western. When Frankely Gonzalez grounded to left field, Santiago reached home plate and drew the Pioneers closer to the Vikings. Gonzalez continued the aggressive play and stole second base. He made it to third on a fielder’s choice before Brian Hernandez popped one up in the air and into the glove of a Viking’s player to retire the side.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jake Benolken doubled to center field and advanced to third base on a Christopher Jones sacrifice. Raul Mercado brought him home and tied the game with a ground ball to the shortstop. Unfortunately, the Pioneers couldn’t make much else happen as Santiago struck out looking for the final out of the inning.
Tied game, top of the fifth inning. The Pioneers were gaining some momentum and their confidence was climbing. The Viking’s first batter struck out swinging, their second only singled and their third popped one up for an out. One more out and the Pioneers could get back to work and try and take the lead. The Viking’s Peroni caught a pitch just right, however, and sent it over the left-field wall. It was a three-run homer and just like that, Western was once more playing from behind.
The game wouldn’t see another score until the bottom of the eighth inning. It came on the Pioneer’s Blake Clanton’s sacrifice fly to score Gonzalez, who walked, and advanced Anthony, who reached on an error, to third. It left one man on base, but the Pioneers couldn’t capitalize and Hernandez flew out to center field to end the run.
The Pioneers kept the Vikings off the scoreboard during the top of the ninth inning and had one more chance to tie or win the game. It started off rough with Benolken striking out swinging and Jones striking out looking, but Mercado brought the team to life with a triple to center field. Mercado would then score on a wild pitch, but John Lantigua couldn’t feed off the momentum and struck out looking to end the game.
The Pioneers went into this series expecting to win it. They knew they had what it took and with the community behind them, they felt they were unstoppable. Unfortunately, the Mercer Vikings proved to be too tough giving the Pioneer’s a chance at the end of each game to steal it and the Pioneer’s unable to come up with the answer. It was a fantastic season filled with amazing baseball. Now the Pioneer’s will come home, regroup, say goodbye to their sophomores and hello to incoming freshman and do their best to come back strong next season. They fought hard, rallying from down three to almost pulling off an upset. They’re down for now, but the Pioneers never stay down for long.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221 ext. 2076.