The Toccoa Falls Eagles (32-15) defeated Dallas Christian College (27-39) in the national championship game of the NCCAA Division II baseball World Series on May 11, 4-3. The 2013 national title is the third consecutive championship won by Toccoa Falls.
TFC entered the World Series as the top seed and advanced to the title game through the winner’s brackets with wins over Cairn University (11-0), Clearwater Christian (16-2), and Dallas Christian (4-0). The #3 Dallas Christian Crusaders defeated Ohio Christian (4-1) and Florida Christian (4-0 and 3-1). DCC earned a rematch with TFC in the championship game by defeating Florida Christian 3-1 on Friday night.
As they had done in each of the previous three World Series games, TFC scored early to take a lead that they would not relinquish. Throughout the World Series, TFC never trailed their opponent, and that would hold true against the Crusaders. Freshman Will Patrick put the Eagles on the board 2-0 in the top of the first inning with a two out, bases loaded single to right that scored Jordan Couillard and Corey Warner. TFC added another two out run in the second inning as Justin Key reached on an infield single and would later score on a wild pitch from DCC’s starting pitcher Ruben Salinas to increase their lead to 3-0.
DCC would answer as All-American catcher Jonathan Perea walked to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Perea advanced to second base on a ground out and would tag to third on a spectacular diving catch from TFC’s Josh Hill. With two hits and Perea on third base, TFC’s Jordan Couillard was unable to cleanly field a hard hit groundball and Perea scored on the error to close TFC’s lead to 3-1.
In the fourth inning, both teams stranded runners on second and third base and missed scoring opportunities. TFC would add a crucial insurance run in the top of the 6th inning; an insurance run that would prove to be the difference in the game. Again with two outs in the 6th inning, senior catcher Adam Reynolds walked and was replaced by courtesy runner AJ Mussler. Mussler advanced to second base on a Josh Ward walk, and would score the Eagles fourth run on Ronnie Stewart’s single to center for a 4-1 lead.
The Crusaders would not go down without a fight. In the bottom of the 7th and final inning, Trevor Lynn started a rally with a leadoff walk off TFC’s starting pitcher Micah Ellington. DCC’s Taylor Peddicord doubled down the left field line and placed runners at second and third with no outs. Tyler Hubbard singled to center and scored Lynn and Peddicord for a 4-3 game. Hubbard also took second on Justin Key’s fielding error. Clinging to a one run lead with no outs and a runner in scoring position, TFC’s coach Justin Pollock called on game one starter Zack Breeden to finish the game. Breeden retired Corey Lee on a pop out to third baseman Corey Warner. Hubbard advanced to third base as National Player of the Year Kale McQuillen grounded out to second. With two outs and the tying run 90 feet from home, Jonathan Perea grounded out to the shortstop Jordan Couillard to end the Crusaders comeback attempt and gave TFC their third consecutive national championship.
Senior Micah Ellington earned the win for TFC with 6 innings, five hits, three runs, two earned runs, four walks, and a strikeout. Zack Breeden earned the save, coming on in the 7th inning with the tying run on base. Ronnie Stewart was 2-3 from the plate with an RBI. Justin Key was also 2-3 and scored a run.
This is the fourth national championship in five seasons for TFC. The Eagles previously won the title in 2009, 2011, 2012. In the four national championships TFC has claimed, this is the second time in which TFC advanced through the bracket without dropping a game in the double elimination tournament. The Eagles also accomplished this feat in 2011. In the 2013 World Series, TFC outscored their opposition 35-5 and increased their record versus NCCAA DII opponents to 16-2 on the season.
Senior third baseman Corey Warner was named the Most Valuable Player for the 2013 World Series. Warner finished the tournament with four runs batted in and a .884 slugging percentage. Coach Justin Pollock was awarded the National Coach of the Year. This is the third consecutive season and the fourth time during his career that Coach Pollock has been given that award. Senior pitcher Micah Ellington and first baseman Ronnie Stewart were recognized as members of the All-Tournament team.
Photo credit: Mrs. Denise Pritchett