The McLennan Highlanders claimed the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Championship this afternoon with a doubleheader splitting the road against the Cisco Wranglers. This marks the first time since the 1995 &1996 seasons that the Highlanders have claimed back-to-back conference championships.
Cisco took game one 11-10 with Jase Embry taking the loss on the mound for McLennan.
The Highlanders scored one run in the top of the first as Joe Breaux walked, moved to second on a single by Motley, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Josh Breaux.
McLennan doubled their lead with a run in the second as Cole Haring led off with a triple and scored on a ground out by Brock Morrison.
Cisco tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the second. William Hollis was safe at first on a Highlander error and came around to score on a triple by Hunter Hill. Hill then scored on a single by Johnny Gonzales.
The Wranglers took the lead with two runs in the third as Stephen Pena was hit by the pitch and scored on Nolan Ritchie's home run.
Chris Roller's solo home run in the fourth pulled the Highlanders within one, 4-3.
McLennan took the lead with two runs in the fifth. Motley led off with a solo home run. Josh Breaux then walked, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brendan Venter.
Cisco broke the game open with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth. Allonte Wingate led off with a walk. Back-to-back bunts by Pena and Michael Hoehner loaded the bases. Ritchie followed with a single to score Wingate and Pena. Hollis then singled to score Hoehner. Ritchie and Hollis advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Hill. Gonzales followed with a single to score Ritchie, and Hollis scored on a single by Luke Horanski. A fielder's choice by Wesley Phillips put Horanski out at second and moved Gonzales to third. Phillips moved to second on wild pitch, and Wingate singled to score Gonzales and Phillips.
The Highlanders fought back with five runs in the top of the sixth but it wasn't enough. Nick Thornquist and Roller both walked. Motley followed with a single to score Thronquist, and Josh Breaux singled to scored Roller. Venter followed with a three-run bomb.
McLennan dominated Cisco in the night cap, defeating the Wranglers 14-1 with Jason Blanchard getting the run-rule victory on the mound.
The Highlanders began the scoring with Haring's solo home run in the third.
McLennan added two runs in the fourth. Motley and Josh Breaux both singled. Venter followed with a fielder's choice, putting Josh out at second. Griffin Paxton singled to score Motley, and Venter scored on a single by Thornquist.
Four runs scored for the Highlanders in the fifth. Roller doubled and scored on a single by Joe Breaux. Joe stole second and Josh Breaux was safe at first on a Cisco error. Venter singled to score Joe, and Paxton singled to score Josh. Thornquist and Mario Vela both walked, bringing Venter in to score.
McLennan exploded for six runs in the sixth. Joe Breaux singled and Josh Breaux walked. Venter followed with his second three-run homer of the day. Paxton and Thornquist both walked. Haring followed with a double to score Paxton. Vela also walked, and Roller singled to score Thornquist and Haring.
Cisco's only run came in the bottom of the sixth as Wingate singled, moved to second on a single by Hoehner, advanced to third as Hill was hit by the pitch and scored on a ground out by Hollis.
Venter's solo home run in the top of the seventh rounded out the scoring.
McLennan will compete in the Region V Tournament beginning Friday in Lubbock. The Highlanders will be the top seed from the North and will face the fourth-seed from the West in round one.
"Today's split at Cisco guaranteed us the conference championship and that's something we are obviously very proud of and I couldn't be more excited for our players," head coach Mitch Thompson said. "Winning back-to-back conference championships for the first time since 1996 is a a big deal and a really big deal for these sophomore who have been a part of these last two conference championships."
"We don't like losing three out of the four games to Cisco, it's not exactly how we wanted to go into the tournament. But I don't feel like we played poorly; I feel like we were in three really close one-run games that just didn't go our way. We will use it as motivation tool to refocus us and get us right."
"Hopefully we can get off to a great start in Lubbock. The tournament is a dog fight, an eight-team double-elimination tournament with eight really good teams in it – the top four teams from our conference and the top four teams from the West conference. You have eight teams that are all capable of winning it. Once you win our region tournament then you have the opportunity to go win a national championship. Motivation is high and I think we will be in good shape health-wise, so I'm excited to go tackle the challenge in Lubbock next week."