After an epic comeback win against Alabama Southern in the Pirates’ second game of the ACCC Tournament, there was no surprise that the Eagles of Monroeville fought their way back through the bracket to set up a rematch for the Alabama Community College Conference championship. However, the game was not without drama from the outset, as the game began on Wednesday, and with a 100% chance of rain forecast, the meteorologists proved themselves correct, as a deluge of thunderstorms halted the game after just one inning, and was resumed at that point the next day at noon.
It had been 11 years since the Pirates played for a conference championship, when they fell to Bevill State-Fayette in the 2003 AJCCC Tournament and 18 years since the Pirates dogpiled and hoisted the championship trophy. That year was 1996 and Head Coach Adam Thomas was in his final season at Chatt Valley as the starting catcher, as the Pirates downed a determined Wallace State-Selma club, 11-5.
Much had changed since the early 1990’s though, as in that era, CVCC was a Division II JUCO, and there were only five Alabama junior colleges in their division. The league actually began to swing in the opposite direction in 1998, as the AJCCC, as it was then known, became a Division II heavy league, with 18 teams under the DII moniker, while only 5 schools remained Division I.
However, in 2005, the AJCCC changed its name to the ACCC, and all baseball playing institutions in Alabama were designated as Division I schools, which means everyone is competing against everyone, and the winner of the ACCC Conference Tournament is declared the Region 22 champion and earns an automatic berth to the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.
With a trip to the Rockies on the line, the Pirates and Eagles resumed play in the top of the second in a 0-0 game. The Pirates sent sophomore ace, Dalton Rentz to the mound, who was on full rest, to clinch the title for CVCC. The only hiccup was the brief outing the previous day due to the rain.
Rentz was superb through the first 3 innings, allowing only a meaningless single and striking out 4 of the 9 outs he recorded. Meanwhile, the swashbuckler offense struck first, as Grayson Ivey hammered the first pitch of the second offensive day for CVCC into the left field trees for a leadoff homer and a 1-0 Chatt Valley lead. The Pirates loaded the bases in the inning, and were on the verge of breaking the game wide open, however, Coach Daniel Head went to his bullpen, and the Eagle reliever delivered an inning ending strikeout to keep the deficit at 1-0.
The Pirates added to their lead in the third, when Trevor Kieboom led off the frame with a single. Cam Sperry grounded into a fielders choice, but ended up at 2nd base on an errant throw by the ASCC shortstop. Tyler Lynn came up big with a 2 out single to score Sperry and give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
A bit of fatigue set in for Rentz in the fourth, as he showed the signs of pitching on back to back days, when Alabama Southern tied the game at 2 apiece on a one out walk and three consecutive singles. However, as has been the case his entire career, Rentz shut the door and pitched on pure guts and heart.
After a 1-2-3 5th inning, the Eagles took a momentary lead on a one out solo homer by their first baseman. Down 3-2, Rentz kept them right there and the offense responded his efforts by pouring on a 4 spot in their half of the sixth, as the Pirates sent 9 men to the plate. Tyler Lynn tied the game, leading off the inning with a mammoth homerun to right field. Kenny Ford delivered a one out single, Jeff Ronpirin reached on an error, and Jared Martin walked to load the bases with 2 outs in a 3-3 game.
Trevor Kieboom and Cam Sperry came up clutch, as both delivered run scoring singles to give the Pirates and Big Donkey a little breathing room, with a 6-3 lead. Donk gave the Pirates a huge shut down, 1-2-3 inning in the 7th. However, running on fumes, Rentz finally ran out of gas in the 8th, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits, as the Eagles cut the lead to 6-5.
Coach Thomas went to the bullpen and called on Colt Ramsey, who had been stellar late in the year after returning from a shoulder injury. However, today was not his day, as the Eagles loaded the bases with 2 out, and put themselves on the fringe of busting the game open in their favor. Closer, Chris Brown came on in tough situation and recorded perhaps the biggest strikeout of his CVCC career to end the threat and the inning.
In a one run baseball game, the Pirates unloaded on a tired ASCC bullpen and put the game away, scoring 5 runs, as Ronpirin and Holland both reached on free passes. After a double steal, Jared Martin delivered a big sacrifice fly to score Ronpirin. An intentional walk to Kieboom put runners at the corners with one out. Although, the Pirates did not do much themselves to score the rest, the Eagle pitchers and defense self destructed, allowing 3 more runs to score via the wild pitch and one more on an error. Once the smoke cleared, CVCC sat on the right side of an 11-5 score, needing only 3 outs to clinch the championship.
However, Chris Brown would face the dangerous and speedy top of the Eagle order to close things out. After inducing a routine ground ball, the ASCC lead off hitter reached on an errant throw. The next batter reached on a single to give Southern life with 2 on and none out. Brownie punched out the next guy and Jared Martin threw out a runner attempting to steal third for the second out. With 2 out and one on, and the score 11-5, Brown induced a harmless pop up to James Cunningham to end the game and start the mayhem on the mound.
The Pirates finished off a perfect ACCC Tournament to become the Region 22 champions. The victory pushed the Pirates’ record to 47-9 on the year as the prepared to head to Grand Junction, Colorado for the Alpine Bank JUCO World Series.
Once the hugs, tears, dogpiles, and smiles were over, the Pirates accepted the ACCC Championship trophy, while 4 Pirates earned All ACCC Tournament honors: centerfielder J.D. Perry, right fielder Tyler Lynn, catcher Jared Martin, and third baseman Trevor Kieboom. Additionally, Pirate pitcher, Dalton Rentz, was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Pirates traveled back to Chattahoochee Valley with trophy in hand and a police escort by the fine folks at the Russell County Sheriff’s Office. After taking a 3 day break, Chatt Valley began their preparations for a trip to the World Series.