The true character of a championship team can often be traced back to the way the team handles adversity and responds when the spotlight descends upon them.
For the Western Oklahoma State College Pioneers baseball team, it passed the biggest test of the year Saturday night with flying colors and in return, they reached the very pinnacle of the junior college baseball world.
Oklahoma, say hello to your new national champions.
After getting beat by Madison College in the 10th game of the NJCAA Division II World Series, the Pioneers faced elimination with another loss but chose to stare adversity in the face.
Winning four games in a row, the Pioneers dominated the Jones County Community College Bobcats (46-17) 11-1 Saturday night to win the national championship before a standing-room-only crowd at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
Roberto Duran, Jr. led the ferocious Pioneers 12-hit offensive attack, driving in six runs on two doubles and a home run to give pitcher Erlin Santos plenty of room to work with.
“I was seeing the ball really good at the plate,” a sweat-soaked Duran said. “I knew every pitch that was coming and I just swung the bat and it worked.
“Winning this game feels great after all the hard work of waking up at five o’clock in the morning and working out with my teammates.”
Western (51-16) got a big night from Wes Schill, who went two-for-three with a double and a home run and scored three runs and Kenny Acosta with a two-run home run.
Michael Cruz and Jhiomar Veras added RBI for Western.
On the hill, Santos, from the Dominican Republic, scattered seven hits in the complete game win, inducing several ground ball outs while recording four strikeouts.
“I was trying to get on top of the strike zone and get ahead of the hitters,” Santos said through an interpreter. “I have been trying to work hard and our whole team has been working hard all year.”
After losing to Madison and dropping into the losers bracket, the Pioneers had a long road back to the championship including a defeat of Jones County on Thursday night to get a second shot at Madison.
“We lost Wes Schill, one of the best players in the country, and the ball found his spot in that loss,” Western skipper Kurt Russell said. “These guys have been bouncing around all year. We executed tonight and it was a fun game to watch. I am real proud of them.
“All the thanks goes to God.”