It appeared as if it were going to be a slow day for the Delgado bats Saturday.
But that all changed in the fifth inning.
Fueled by an eight-run fifth, the Dolphins ran past Baton Rouge Community College with a 9-3 win at Zephyr Field to clinch the Region XXIII Conference Championship, defeating the Bears 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“We had that big inning in the fifth and that took a lot of pressure off of our pitcher,” Delgado coach Joe Scheuermann said. “We still have a lot of polishing to do — we shot ourselves in the foot a few times — but it gets us to the next step, and that’s what it’s all about.”
With the victory, Delgado (30-13) earned the right to defend its NJCAA South Central District Championship, which will be hosted by the Region II champion from May 15-17.
“Our expectations coming into this year to defend our title and make it back to the (JUCO) World Series,” said Delgado second baseman Cole Freeman, who paced the Delgado attack with a 3-for-4 day at the plate that included two RBIs, one run and two walks. “Nothing has changed for us on that front, and we just have to do whatever we have to do to get there.”
After falling into an early 1-0 hole, the Delgado bats came to life with in a fifth inning that included the Dolphins batting through their entire lineup and the Bears (21-25-1) changing pitchers three times.
Cody Ducote got things going for Delgado with a bases-loaded walk, which was immediately followed by a two-run single from Bryce Adams.
After adding two more runs via a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch, Garrett Shano gave Delgado its second bases-loaded walk of the inning, and Freeman smacked a two-run single to give the Dolphins their final runs of the fifth.
Delgado led Baton Rouge 8-1 by the end of the inning.
“We just started playing our game. I think that’s what changed,” Freeman said. “We had a couple big walks and some timely hitting when we needed it. We know that usually a team scores more runs in one inning than they do the rest of the game, so we wanted to keep going once we started rolling.”
Ducote was a force at the plate throughout the entire series for the Dolphins.
He went 6-for-15 at the plate with four runs and eight RBIs in the first four games of the series, but he showed how much of a threat he is on Friday without taking the bat off of his shoulder.
The Bears appeared as if they were trying their hardest to not give the former Brother Martin standout a pitch when he came up with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. It resulted in a four-pitch walk that kick-started the Dolphins’ offensive outburst.
Scheuermann said that play shows how much of an impact Ducote has on Delgado’s offense with just his presence. He finished the day 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“Ducote got a big bases-loaded walk for us there, and that got us going,” Scheuermann said. “They’ve been going against him all year, and they’re philosophy is to not let him beat them.
“It’s probably the right philosophy because he’s a great hitter.”
The Dolphins also got a solid start from pitcher Andrew Mitchell, who lasted 6.1 innings while allowing one run on five hits. He also had three walks and a strikeout.