By Nathaniel Frazier
OZARK—The Chattahoochee Valley Pirates of Phenix City will now truly get a chance to put their number one national ranking to the test. That's because the Pirates are headed to Grand Junction, CO to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series.
Chattahoochee Valley accomplished this feat by defeating the Alabama Southern Eagles 11-5 in the championship of the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon.
"This is really crazy," said Adam Thomas, the coach of the champion Pirates. "I really don't know what to say right now about something like this. I am so proud of my boys right now. I'm proud of my family, and I'm proud of my extended family and everyone who supported us."
While the final score may seem lopsided, the game was anything but that. It was the second time this week the Pirates had to come from behind against the Eagles.
The Pirates trailed 3-2 in the fifth inning when they scored four runs to take a 6-3 lead. Then, barely clinging to a 6-5 lead, it was the eighth inning that turned out to be the undoing for the Eagles. CVCC scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth without the benefit of a single hit. The Pirates were benefactors of four walks, a hit batter, three wild pitches, an error, and a sacrifice fly.
"They'd go up on us, and we'd battle back," said Alabama Southern coach Daniel Head. "They go up on us again, and we battled back. They went up on us again, and we battled back again. But that eighth inning killed us. We just simply ran out of gas."
CVCC starting and winning pitcher Dalton Rentz had pretty much held the Eagles at bay during his 7 2/3 innings of work. But when Rentz came out of the game with his team holding a 6-4 lead, the Eagles came to life. Reliever Colt Ramsey didn't get a single out. He gave up a run on a wild pitch, walked a batter, hit another, and another batter reached on error. Chris Brown actually had to come on and get the final out.
"It was time for me to come out of the game," Rentz said. "I was tired and I was getting the ball up. And when you elevate the ball, you get hit hard."
Rentz, who has already signed with Auburn University, was named the tournament's most valuable player.
The Pirates took the early lead in the second inning when Grayson Ivey hit a solo home run off losing pitcher Aaron Hart. A second run scored in the third inning without the benefit of a hit when the Eagles committed three of their game high six errors.
The Eagles tied the game in the top of the third on a two-RBI single from Hunter Ellenberg. Alabama Southern took their only lead on a solo home run by Trevor Flynn that hit the foul pole in right field.
The Pirates took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth. They got a solo home run from Trevor Lynn, RBI singles from Trevor Kieboom and Cam Sperry, and a fourth run scored on an error.
The Eagles did score two runs in the top of the eighth. But when the Pirates tacked on five in the bottom half, the game was not in doubt after that.
"Ten years ago, I was part of a Chattahoochee Valley team that won a state championship," Thomas said. "A year later, we won it again when I was the starting catcher by this identical score. But this is my first one as coach."
"This is also my first championship of any type," Rentz said. "I never won one as a high school player. This means so much to me."
The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Mitchell Morris, Jean Figueroa, and Ryan Calloway of Alabama Southern, Caleb Lopes and Austin Crook from Faulkner State, Alex Jones and Tyler Henry from Jeff Davis, and J.D. Perry, Jared Martin, Trevor Kiebook, and Tyler Lynn of CVCC. John Holland of CVCC was named the ACCC Player of the Year, while Thomas was named the ACCC Coach of the Year.
ACCC Champion Chattahoochee Valley
ACCC Runner-Up Alabama Southern