MVP Caballero leads Chipola to JUCO title

Second baseman hits five homers during tournament

MVP Caballero leads Chipola to JUCO title

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- Jose Caballero was at a loss for words. All the Chipola College (Fla.) second baseman could muster was, "We did it."

The Indians completed their climb through the losers' bracket Saturday, defeating San Jacinto College-North (Texas) for the second consecutive night -- this time, 15-6 -- to win the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Calls of "Jose" rang around Suplizio Field, as Caballero was handed the tournament's Most Valuable Player award, capping the week-long power-hitting performance by the sophomore from Panama City, Panama.

As the celebration died down, Caballero became more reflective, saying he and his teammates fed off each other's hitting, and rode the momentum to a championship.

"We came here to battle because we came through the losers' bracket," Caballero said. "We battled, and we did it. I'm so proud that I could do a pretty good job for my team, for my coaches. We did what we needed to do."

Caballero launched five home runs during the tournament, tied for the most with his teammate, Reynaldo Rivera, and drove in a tournament-best 16 runs.

The top-ranked Indians (51-9, 6-1 JUCO) hammered out 21 home runs over seven games, adding two more Saturday night to pull away in their final game against the Gators (48-18, 5-2). Chipola also scored 85 runs, breaking the tournament record of 79, set by College of Southern Idaho in 1984.

But early on, Chipola was chasing San Jacinto.

The Gators scratched out the game's first run in the bottom of the first inning, when Tristan Metten scored on a groundout after he hit a leadoff double.

Chipola responded in the top of the second, despite a popped-up bunt that turned into a double play. The first two batters of the inning -- Max Guzman and Brody Wofford -- each walked, but the bunt attempt by Andrew Bechtold was snagged by pitcher Kaleb Roper, who doubled off Wofford at first. Despite that, Guzman advanced and scored on back-to-back wild pitches, the second of which rolled only six feet away from the catcher, to tie it at 1.

The Gators retook the lead in the bottom of the second on Herbert Iser's towering homer over the center-field scoreboard. A night after his deep fly ball was pulled back into play by a leaping outfielder, Iser's home run was the 63rd overall of the tournament, breaking a record set in 2009.

Bechtold's two-run single

After a scoreless third inning, the Indians added two in the top of the fourth on Bechtold's single. San Jacinto answered with a one-run double by Aaron Bond and an RBI fielder's choice from Ryan Johnson.

They traded runs again in the fifth, with Caballero's sacrifice fly knotting it at 4, and Brett Wright's solo home run putting the Gators back ahead. However, starting in the sixth, momentum swung Chipola's way.

Te'kwaan Whyte's three-run home run started the surge. Then, after Caballero's diving stop ended the bottom of the sixth, the Indians pounded out four more runs in the seventh. Rivera doubled into the right-field gap to drive in two runs, then Wofford added two more with a home run.

Chipola left no room for doubt in the top of the ninth, plating four more runs, and cutting short San Jacinto's last rally in the ninth.

Indians coach Jeff Johnson said the turning point was Whyte's home run.

"Te'kwaan Whyte's hit was huge," Johnson said. "Coming against their best reliever, and putting us up by two runs, we were able to carry on and get some more runs. This group's done that all year. They've scored runs, and when they get the chance to bury a team, they've done a good job of doing that."

For San Jacinto, it was their sixth runner-up finish under coach Tom Arrington, including a second-place trophy last year. The Gators entered Friday undefeated in the tournament, but two consecutive losses at the end left the coach emotional.

"I'm just proud of our guys," Arrington said. "I'm truly blessed to have coached this team, to know these players."

Gators outfielder Ryan Johnson, who tied the tournament record with five doubles, said Chipola simply played better.

"I've never been around a better group of guys," Johnson said of San Jacinto. "It sucks to go out like this. We fought hard, hats off to Chipola, they're a great team. They earned it."

Matt Meyer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.