Chipola wins state crown again (see final BRACKETS)

WINTER HAVEN

Ryan Chaffee’s season wasn’t what he expected. Until Tuesday.

The Chipola sophomore struck out 17 Manatee batters and finished with a four-hit complete-game shutout to lead the Indians to a 6-0 win and a second straight state junior college baseball championship. Chipola (44-12) became the first team since Central Florida 10 years ago to win back-to-back state titles.

The Indians earned a berth in the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., May 24-31. They are the defending national champions.

“We started to play well at the end of the conference season, we got healthy and we’re reaping the benefits,” Chipola coach Jeff Johnson said. “Last year it was such a relief for me personally because we came so close before and we finally won.

“This year we can really sit back and appreciate it. You learn to enjoy it, and to see this team make so many strides from the first part of the year is a special thing.”

Chaffee’s season nearly was lost with a broken bone in his foot. He only recently returned after posting a 2-3 record with a 5.20 ERA in 12 appearances, nine of those starts, prior to the injury. Those numbers were hardly indicative of what the Niceville graduate showed he was capable of as a freshman.

He responded with a quality start against St. Petersburg on Saturday. He received a no-decision, but he knew he had an opportunity to make another statement.

Johnson spoke with Chaffee on Monday, and the right-hander said he would be ready to go on Tuesday. Both had a similar meeting during last year’s national tournament, with Chaffee pitching the Indians to the clinching win on limited rest.

“I asked him how long he could go, and he told me, ‘Coach I’m going to throw a complete game,’” Johnson said. “He’s such a warrior. He has unbelievable poise and determination.”

Chaffee’s offense backed him with only one run through eight innings. Chipola stranded 10 baserunners, including eight through the first five innings.

Much of that had to do with Manatee starter Scott Rembiscz, the state’s Pitcher of the Year who also was stellar through eight innings. He finished with 12 strikeouts to only one walk and eight hits. His last hit was a backbreaker, however, as tournament MVP Carlos Moncrief, who had four RBIs, stroked a three-run home run in the top of the ninth.

Rembiscz gave way to Matt Strawn. Strawn did little to stop the momentum, when Moises Montero hit a two-run homer to cap the scoring and start the celebration.

The Indians withheld final jubilation after Manatee’s Jonathan Rodriguez reached on an error to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Chaffee then worked Jonathan Griffin to a 3-0 count before striking him out. Chaffee struck out Max Loveland to end the game.

Moncrief was 3 for 5 with a double, homer, a run scored and the four RBIs. Daniel Jones, who was held out of Monday’s win over Pensacola with a hamstring injury, was 2 for 3 with two runs.

Loveland had one of Manatee’s four hits. Hunter Wessells, Brett Holte and Robert Haney had the other hits, all singles, for the Lancers (40-16).

Chipola has time to relax and await its first-round opponent at the national tournament. The Indians open against the South Central District winner at 4 p.m. CDT May 24.