The McLennan Highlanders shined in their opening-round game of the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado, with a 10-1 run-rule romp over the Florence-Darlington Tech Stingers from South Carolina.
Freshman Jase Embry got the start on the mound for the Highlanders and picked up the win.
McLennan showed some big-game jitters in the first inning. With two outs already recorded, Josh Breaux and Nic Motley drew back-to-back walks. But, the Highlanders weren’t able to capitalize and left the runners stranded.
The jitters continued in the bottom of the inning as Embry got into an early jam. Javon Martin and Dante Blakeney both singled and advanced on a sacrifice by Tyler Anshaw. Harrison Hawkins then walked to load the bases with only one out. Embry stepped up to the challenge, striking out the next two batters to end the inning.
McLennan broke the game open in the top of the second, scoring six runs. Griffin Paxton and George Callil both singled, and Chris Roller walked to load the bases. Joe Breaux walked, bringing Paxton in to score. Josh Breaux followed with a grand slam over the left-field fence. Nic Motley then homered over the right-field fence.
The Highlanders added two more runs in the top of the third. Paxton led off with a solo home run over the centerfield wall. Cole Haring and Chase Sortor both singled. Callil followed with a fielder’s choice, putting Sortor out at second. Roller then walked to load the bases. Joe Breaux was hit by the pitch, bringing Haring in to score.
Blakeney’s home run in the bottom of the third would prove to be Florence-Darlington’s only run.
McLennan scored another run in the fifth as Roller was hit by the pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a Stinger error and scored on a ground out by Josh Breaux.
Roller’s solo home run to left field in the top of the seventh rounded out the scoring.
“You have to be happy when you get a 10-1 win on our opening night here,” head coach Mitch Thompson said. “I’m very proud of the guy’s effort. Jase was good on the mound and very competitive. Florence-Darlington put him in some bad situations early and he was able to wiggle out of them.”
“Our lineup did a nice job of grinding out at-bats early against Trent Autry who’s got a really nice arm. They ran some good arms out there at us today and gave us some trouble. We struck out too many times but we hit four or five long balls and that was the difference in the ball game,” Thompson said.
“We’re going to get San Jac or Chipola next. Either way, we will have our hands full. It will be very exciting and a great atmosphere,” Thompson said.
San Jac and Chipola will face off Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. (CT). The Highlanders will face the winner of that contest at 8:30 p.m. (CT) Tuesday.