BASEBALL: Stephenson slugs three of TC's eight homers as No. 15 Leopards ride wind to sweep of Cisco
SLUGGING SATURDAY: Temple College freshman shortstop Seth Stephenson hit three home runs Saturday as the Leopards defeated Cisco 19-9 and 16-6 in two six-inning, run-rule games at Danny Scott Sports Complex. The Tennessee signee extended his team-leading total to seven homers as No. 15-ranked TC improved to 29-6 overall and 12-4 in the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, tied for first place with rival McLennan. Cole Payne hit two of the Leopards' eight homers, and Travis Chestnut, Sammy Diaz and Clark Henry each went deep once. Temple produced 29 hits overall, 15 for extra bases. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
As Temple College's baseball team has played against conference opponent Cisco through the years, TC head coach Craig McMurtry has grown accustomed to the traditional wind patterns. The breeze usually blows out at Cisco and promotes high-scoring games, whereas the wind typically blows in at the Leopards' pitcher-friendly Danny Scott Sports Complex and leads to lower-scoring games.
This week, however, the script got flipped when it came to the wind, which blew hard in at Cisco on Wednesday, then blew hard out at Temple on Saturday.
“It was exactly the opposite,” McMurtry said after his club went 3-1 in the four-game series, including a 4-1 win and a 5-4 loss at Cisco. “I was concerned today, because Cisco is used to hitting with the wind blowing out at their place.”
And the visiting Wranglers did produce a good amount of offense, recording 19 hits and 15 runs in Saturday afternoon's doubleheader. That said, it wasn't nearly enough to keep pace with the Leopards, who took advantage of the atypical conditions to rack up 29 hits and 35 runs, including eight home runs.
Seth Stephenson hit three homers, Cole Payne homered in each game and Clark Henry delivered walk-off hits in both games as Temple clobbered Cisco's pitching staff to win 19-9 and 16-6 in a pair of six-inning, run-rule games.
“We swung the bats and our guys squared up a lot of balls,” said McMurtry, whose team scored at least one run and 32 total in its first nine innings Saturday as TC improved its home record to 16-1. “It was a tough day to pitch. Outfielders were playing up against the wall.”
The Leopards, ranked No. 15 in the NJCAA Division I national poll, improved to 29-6 overall and 12-4 in the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, pushing them into a tie for first place with rival McLennan halfway through the 32-game league schedule.
“We could be 14-2 in conference, but it is what it is,” said McMurtry, whose squad is 12-2 in NTJCAC games since it started with two losses at Weatherford. “If somebody had said, 'You're going to be 12-4 in conference,' we'd have taken that in a heartbeat.”
Temple sophomore right-handed pitcher Ulises Quiroga entered Saturday in dominant form, with a 7-0 record, a 0.98 earned-run average and 57 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings. Dealing with hitter-friendly conditions in the doubleheader's scheduled seven-inning opener, Quiroga wasn't able to duplicate his previous success, allowing eight hits and nine runs in 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven batters and walking four.
“He got away from his fastball, and Cisco started sitting on breaking balls,” McMurtry said about Quiroga (8-0), who still hung in long enough to record yet another win.
TC led 7-3 after three innings against Sam Tollin (1-1) and used a five-run outburst to go ahead 12-4 after four, then the Wranglers (25-11, 10-10) battled back with a five-run fifth to make it 12-9 and take Quiroga out of the game.
Sophomore lefty reliever Diego Fernandez got the final out in the fifth to escape a jam, then the Leopards went off for another five-run inning in their half of the fifth for a commanding 17-9 lead. Fernandez pitched a scoreless sixth before Henry's two-run homer in the sixth completed Temple's run-rule victory.
Stephenson (3-for-5, triple, three runs batted in), Payne and sophomore catcher Sammy Diaz also hit home runs for TC, and Henry and Payne drove in four runs each.
The series finale was scheduled for nine innings, but again the Leopards needed only six to grab another 10-run win. They scored one run in the first inning and then ignited for eight in the second against Allen Smith (2-2) to build a 9-0 advantage that grew to 13-2 after Temple's four-run third.
Tennessee-signed freshman shortstop Stephenson hit two solo homers, pushing his team-best total to seven. Payne and Travis Chestnut (four RBI) also homered for TC. Joseph Redfield hit two doubles, McNeese State-signed catcher Andruw Gonzales went 2-for-3 with two RBI and Henry and Belton graduate Dylan Blomquist both went 2-for-4.
The Leopards carried a 13-6 lead into the bottom of the sixth and then added three runs, capped by Henry's RBI single that gave the freshman slugger two walk-off hits on the day in Temple's pair of run-rule victories.
The primary beneficiary of TC's offensive bonanza was freshman righty starter Kolby Wilson (2-0), who was relieved by Fernandez in the fourth.
Overall in the doubleheader, Stephenson was 6-for-10 with three homers, five RBI and seven runs, Payne went 3-for-5 with two homers and six RBI and Henry was 4-for-7 with six RBI and six runs. Also, freshman third baseman Ty Tilson went 4-for-7 with a triple, three RBI and four runs.
The Leopards will begin the second half of NTJCAC competition with a four-game series against Grayson (22-13, 10-10), starting with Wednesday's noon doubleheader in Denison. TC will host the Vikings in a doubleheader at noon next Saturday at Danny Scott Sports Complex.
Northern Texas Junior College
No. 15 Temple College 19,
Cisco 9 (6)
Cisco 003 150 – 9 8 4
Temple 214 552 – 19 14 2
C: Sam Tollin, Michael Barta (3), Luke Douthitt (5), Tyler Grodell (5), Jacob Garza (5) and Rhett Trlicek. TC: Ulises Quiroga, Diego Fernandez (5) and Sammy Diaz. W – Quiroga (8-0). L – Tollin (1-1). Sv – Fernandez (1). HR – C: Colton Moore (5); TC: Seth Stephenson (5), Clark Henry (4), Cole Payne (2), Diaz (1). 3B – C: Roberto Gonzalez; TC: Stephenson, Ty Tilson. 2B – C: Moore; TC: Travis Chestnut.
Highlights – TC: Stephenson 3-for-5, three runs batted in; Henry 2-for-3, four RBI, game-ending two-run home run; Payne 2-for-3, four RBI; Quiroga seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
No. 15 Temple College 16,
Cisco 6 (6)
Cisco 002 310 – 6 11 2
Temple 184 003 – 16 15 2
C: Allen Smith, Steven Fink (3), Seth Higdon (6) and August Ramirez. TC: Kolby Wilson, Diego Fernandez (4), Jace Walker (5), Mason Brandenberger (5) and Andruw Gonzales. W – Wilson (2-0). L – Smith (2-2). HR – TC: Seth Stephenson 2 (7), Travis Chestnut (2), Cole Payne (3). 2B – C: Roberto Gonzalez, Ryan Magdic, Colton Moore; TC: Joseph Redfield 2, Chestnut, Gonzales.
Highlights – TC: Chestnut four RBI; Stephenson two solo home runs; Gonzales 2-for-3, two RBI; Clark Henry 2-for-4, game-ending RBI single; Dylan Blomquist 2-for-4.
Records – Temple 29-6 overall, 12-4 in NTJCAC; Cisco 25-11, 10-10.
Notes – Temple sweeps NTJCAC doubleheader, wins four-game series 3-1; TC begins four-game series vs. Grayson (22-13, 10-10) with a doubleheader at noon Wednesday in Denison, hosts Grayson in doubleheader at noon next Saturday.