It wasn’t a conference game, but judging by the couple dozen Major League scouts in attendance, it certainly percolated with a big-game feel.
So, chalk up a rather large victory for the McLennan Community College Highlanders.
Ninth-ranked MCC overcame a shaky start on the mound with some splendid bullpen work in an 11-3 win over No. 1-ranked San Jacinto on a sunny, cool Monday afternoon at Bosque River Ballpark. The Highlanders (17-6) have now taken two out of three from San Jac on the season. They’ll meet once more on March 26 on San Jac’s home field in Houston.
“If you were paying any attention to the number of scouts out here today, there were 20 to 25 scouts, and we’re not just talking the area scouts, we’re talking the decision makers in Major League Baseball,” MCC coach Mitch Thompson said. “I’m proud of the way our bullpen came in and the way we threw the ball, and I’m proud of the way we were able to keep scratching out (runs). We put six on them early, but then we put another five on them in the next seven innings against some really good bullpen arms.”
MCC freshman starter Levi David struggled with his command at the outset, and the Gators (17-6) capitalized. San Jac took a 3-1 lead after its half of the second inning, converting on a pair of walks in the second along with an errant pickoff throw from David, a wild pitch and a passed ball.
“I’m running Levi out there, and Levi has a really good arm,” Thompson said. “The thing he fights is himself a little bit. We’ve got to keep trying to get him innings, keep trying to get him experience, because it’s a good arm and a power breaking ball. I’m going to keep running him out there, because at the end of the year I want him.”
The Highlander hitters punished San Jac’s strong stable of arms with crafty at-bats throughout the day. MCC responded with a five-run outpouring in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead for good.
In that inning, MCC slugger Josh Breaux – one of the objects of those scouts’ affection, as the top-ranked juco prospect in the country by Perfect Game – ripped a two-run single up the middle to get the scoring started. Keaton Milford followed by slicing a hit to left that dropped in for a two-run double, and MCC added one more in the inning on Thomas Santos’ bouncing single to right.
That outburst gave MCC a 6-3 lead in a game that was setting up as a slugfest. But the Highlander relievers handcuffed the Gators the rest of the way, while Thompson’s team continued to occasionally pad its lead.
MCC pitchers Grant Miller and Alex DeLeon limited San Jac to just two hits and no runs from the end of the third inning through the game’s completion.
The Highlanders widened the gap to 8-3 in the fourth. Keaton Milford drove in a run with a towering sacrifice fly, and catcher Nick Thornquist tacked on another with a sharply-struck RBI single to right.
Breaux topped MCC with a 3-for-4 outing, fattening his season batting average to .365. Santos delivered a pair of hits, and Milford drove in three runs. For San Jac, which finished with only six hits, DH Peter Zimmerman was the only player to produce a multi-hit game, going 2-for-5.
MCC has a week off before another nonconference game against Wharton, and then the Highlanders will resume conference play on March 21 against Weatherford. So, the Highlanders were happy to ride the high of a big win into the break.
“(San Jac) is a team that’ll be in Grand Junction. They’re typically that type of team, and that’ll be the type of team you have to beat to win something special,” Thompson said. “So every game that we can get experience against those type of people, that’s what we need to do.
“Right now, we’re 17-6 and probably one of the things I’m most proud of is that we’re 13-6 against teams that have winning records. So we’re not playing Sisters of the Poor. I think that bodes well for us.”