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Highlanders advance to JUCO World Series Championship

 The McLennan Highlanders advanced to the championship game of the JUCO World Series with an 11-5 win over the Walters State Senators tonight at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Reece Calvert picked up the win for the Highlanders on the mound and Collin Sharp got the save.

Walters State began the scoring with Elijah Helton's solo home run in the top of the third.

McLennan scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Brandon Grudzielanek singled and Tucker Johnson was hit by the pitch. Noah McGowan drew a walk to load the bases. Braxton Wilks followed with a double, scoring Grudzielanek and Johnson.

The Senators took the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth. Braxton Brinkley and Colie Curie both singled. Ramon Osuna followed with the three-run homer.

McLennan responded with a four-run bottom of the fifth. Will Fox and Kirby McGuire both singled. Johnson walked to load the bases. James Rudkin followed with a grand slam.

Walters State's final run came in the top of the sixth as Bryan Bussey was hit by the pitch, moved to second on a single by Helton, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Brinkley.

The Highlanders added a run in the sixth. Mason George doubled and moved to third on a sacrifice fly by Fox. McGuire drew a walk. The double steal brought George in to score.

McLennan scored two runs in the seventh. McGowan drew a lead-off walk but was out at second on a fielder's choice by Braxton Hollenshead. Wilks and George both singled, bringing Hollenshead in to score. Wilks then scored on a passed ball. 

The Highlanders rounded out the scoring with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Johnson drew a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. Rudkin followed with a double, scoring Johnson. McGowan then singled to score Rudkin.

McLennan will face Northwest Florida State in the championship game tomorrow at 8 p.m. (CST).

"What a great opponent we played. Walters State is loaded, they are so dangerous up and down their line up. They've got talented arms, the full package," coach Mitch Thompson said. "I kept telling myself that with their offensive club, we had to score 10. We scored 11 and we are alright.

"I told our guys let's just come out today and be ourselves and play the best baseball game we can. Knock on wood, I think we did and I hope we have one more just like it in us tomorrow. It was a fantastic job by our guys. Our pitching was good; we played good defense and we had a really good time hitting. I couldn't be more proud of our kids.

"It's been 32 years since we were in this game. We are here and are going to play hard tomorrow," Thompson said. "We have a great challenge ahead of us but we have been playing for this game. Nobody else in the world may have believed it but the guys in that dugout, they believed it. We're not done. We're not going to be happy walking out of here in second place. Tomorrow we get a chance to play for it and have the most fun we have ever had on a baseball field."


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