Sluggers walk it off

Charles Chaney
Hunter Gibson celebrates with his teammates after the walk off, game-winning home run against the Colorado Cyclones in the elimination round of the NBC World Series on Wednesday, August 5 at Wichita State's Eck Stadium.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hunter Gibson had words with the umpire, disagreeing with the strike three call.

Coming to plate in the bottom of the ninth, Gibson left nothing to be decided by the umpires as he cranked a 2-run home run over the right field to send the Rose Hill Sluggers into the next round with the 9-7 win and send the Colorado Cyclones home.

“I just cleared my head for that at bat,” Gibson said. “I was looking to drive something and he left something high and inside.”

“The rest is history.”

Gibson’s walk off home run capped off an instant classic in the 86th National Baseball Congress World Series.

The bat flip may have been more impressive.

After sending the ball soaring through the Wichita night sky, Gibson sent the bat flying, which probably landed somewhere near Kellogg.

“The reason I did that is because they were getting chippy and mouthy,” Gibson said. “That’s my way of saying it’s time to go calm down and don’t get ahead of yourselves.”

It’s how the game would go.

“We’ve had so many close games this summer,” Sluggers head coach Jake Jones said. “I’m really glad we came out on top.”

The Cyclones based out of Greeley, Colorado, took the early 1-0 lead when Jake Haze scored on an error. Rose Hill responded in the bottom half of the inning by plating five runs.

It was Mason Hartman tripling to start the inning. Then, Ryan Koval crushing a ball over the left field fence for the early 2-1 lead for Rose Hill.

“it felt good,” Koval said. “It does take a lot of pressure off you, I’m not going to lie.”

Jared Gates beat out a throw to first base to score Garett Kocis from third to make it 3-0. The Sluggers would plate two more runs in the bottom half of the first on walks before the dust settled.

Colorado used three pitchers in the inning but it was not enough to slow down the bats of Rose Hill.

Gibson would score on a wild pitch with one out in the second inning to make it a 6-1 advantage.

Then, Wichita State’s Connery Peters went to work.

After giving up a run on two errors in the first inning, Peter’s mowed through the Cyclones over the next four innings. He struck out eight batters while allowing only six hits.

The Cyclones made Rose Hill pay on the pitching change. Climer gave up a 3-run home run to cut the game to a 1-run difference.

Colorado made the comeback complete when they hit back-to-back doubles when Wyatt Featherston doubled to down the third field line to score Jason Ajamin from second with one out, tying the game at 7-all.

“This is the benefit of having an older team who have played in big games,” Jones said. “They didn’t let the moment get too big and when the moment slows down it becomes much easier to play baseball at a level like this.”

They used the calming words form their coach and used to as they loaded the bases in the eighth but came up short. Then, using it as fuel in the ninth. After giving up a lead off hit, the Sluggers shut down Colorado on their next three batters.

In the Slugger’s bottom half of the ninth, Koval reached on the second pitch, beating out a throw to second base, that set the stage for Gibson’s shot.

“To play with these guys and to get this win here is special,” Gibson said. “To hit that home run here in special, too.”

Gibson finished the game 3-of-5 for two runs and two RBIs, including the walk off.

Koval, who was added to the roster for the World Series, along with a handful of others found themselves contributing immediately.

“All of these guys added were added for a reason,” Jones said. “We were very picky with who we chose. I think we chose right.”

Rose Hill advances the quarterfinals of the NBC World Series against the Texas Express, who beat the Lonestar Baseball Club 15-7 on Wednesday night. That game will be in Hutchinson on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 6 p.m.

“We have to pull together and pull out a win tomorrow so we can move on,” Gibson said.

CC - 100 004 100 - 7;17;3

RH - 510 000 102 - 9;12;2

Hunter Gibson (42) hits a 2-run home run against the Colorado Cyclones on Wednesday, August 5 at Wichita State's Eck Stadium. The home run was the walk off game-winner for the Rose Hill Sluggers