“Heroes are remembered, but legends never die,” the apparition of Babe Ruth told Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez in the movie the Sandlot. The fans of 9,000 plus at Suplizio Field got to see not just a one-game playoff, but an effort of historic and legendary status on Friday night.
The history books of the JUCO World Series were challenged by No. 2 San Jacinto-North’s (TX) Devin Smeltzer’s effort on the mound against No. 1 Chattahoochee Valley CC (AL).
As the first inning started Smeltzer had struck out the side in order. No one would have thought three strikeouts, would turn into a 20-strikeout performance flirting with the history books.
San Jacinto-North defeated Chattahoochee Valley, 8-1, sinking the Pirates in their high seas boat at the JUCO World Series. Smeltzer was downright filthy as Chatt. Valley only mustered two total hits against him. In his 20-strikeout performance he only walked one batter, throwing 140 pitches getting the complete-game win.
The history in this performance goes all the way back 57 years to 1959 and ’61, when Len Bell and Floyd Weaver, both playing for Paris, TX, each struck out 21 in a single game at the JUCO World Series.
Headed into the ninth, Smeltzer couldn’t become the new strikeout leader, but could tie it.
San Jacinto got three runs in the second, one run in the fourth and four runs in the sixth. The Gators could have only scored two runs in the game and still would have one the game.
Head coach Tom Arrington knows that Smeltzer is a talented kid with great stuff on the mound. “You saw it; you were here. I saw it, Devin threw it. It was phenomenal… I have been out here to Grand Junction for under 12 years, certainly [that was] the best that I have seen in the time that I have been here,” Arrington said.
Smeltzer’s performance came at just the right time, with San Jacinto’s backs against the wall, especially after the night before against Chatt. Valley where they had been 10-run ruled 13-3.
San Jacinto-North, behind the incredible pitching performance, will now face the Yavapai (AZ) CC Roughriders for the NJCAA D1 JUCO World Series title. San Jacinto and Yavapai have never faced each other in the championship game.
San Jacinto-North has seen the title come back to Texas five times, their last in 1990. Yavapai has returned the title to Arizona three times, their last in 1993. Both well before the current coaching staffs and players.