By Elizabeth Webb
TYLER — Winning six games in five days. That’s what it took for the Eastfield Harvesters to bring home their third World Series championship.
After Eastfield put away defending champion Gloucester County (N.J.) 8-4 on Thursday night at Mike Carter Field, the players stormed the field and piled on top of each other in celebration. They had just won the NJCAA Division III national championship.
“It’s hard to come back from a loss [in the first game],” pitcher Blake Oliver said. “Only one team has done that in the history of the series. We never felt like we were on the verge of elimination, though. We just came to play.”
Third baseman Nathan Hancock, a freshman from Mesquite Horn High School, was named the MVP of the tournament, leading the team with 17 hits, the most of any player in the series.
“It was my turn to be hot for the team,” Hancock said. “I started a lot of innings for us, and everyone said when I get on the field, it pumps everyone up in the dugout.”
Hancock joined Oliver, relief pitcher Michael Weatherly and outfielder Hestand Foster on the all-tournament team.
“We have come a long way since the regular season,” Foster said. “We didn’t always play our best ball, but as time went on, we bonded and started playing better.”
The Roadrunners (31-18) batted first and looked to have some momentum at the start of the game, taking a 1-0 lead. However, Eastfield (40-21) gave them a fight when they stepped up to bat, scoring three runs to take the lead.
Hancock, second baseman Ryan Morrow and center fieldman Robbie Fraley led the offense, each going 2-for-4 and combining to drive in four runs and score four runs. Pitchers Travis Stavinoha, Dylan Rucker and Taylor Thompson held Gloucester to four runs on nine hits.
One major play came in the seventh inning, when it looked as if the Roadrunners would score several runs. However, left fielder Conner Tobias threw out Logan Morello at home plate help Rucker get out of the inning and eventually pick up the win.
The Harvesters started the tournament off by losing 11-9 to Manchester College (26-24), landing them in the loser’s bracket. One more loss would have sent them home. However, they scored 50 runs in the next six games and only gave up 18 to win it all.
A group of faculty, staff and supporters welcomed the champions home Friday afternoon, holding signs and cheering as the players stepped off the bus. The excitement was high. Interim President Dr. Jean Conway attended a couple of tournament games, as well as the welcome-home reception.
“It was so exciting,” Conway said. “They stepped up to the plate each time, and when things appeared to not be going their way, that’s when they doubled their efforts.”
The Harvesters also won national titles in 2001 and 2006. They’re already thinking about another future title.
“We’re going to go back to work next season,” Eastfield coach Michael Martin said. “We’re going to field a team that is hopefully going to be competitive enough to get us back to the World Series.”
Kimberly Ansley contributed to this report.