Greg Pron not only helped West Florida win its opening game of the NCAA Division II Championship, but he made school history in the process.
Pron tallied two hits, breaking the record for hits in a career and now has 288 hits. He also scored four runs as the fifth-ranked Argonauts (49-9) rolled past Southern Connecticut State 13-0 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
Pron came into the game batting .437 and said he tried to keep the record out of his mind.
“I was trying not to think about it too much,” Pron told the official school site. ” I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on myself. It is the College World Series. I didn’t need any extra pressure.”
West Florida opened up a 5-0 lead after five innings, thanks in part to Pron’s two-run double in the fifth. The Argonauts were paced at the plate by Dustin Lawley, who finished with four hits, drove in four runs and scored a run.
Josh Huggins stepped up as well. He cranked out three hits and knocked in two runs while also scoring a run. The Argonauts finished with 13 hits.
While the offense was on sharp, it didn’t hurt that Daniel Vargas-Vila was brilliant for eight innings. He gave up only two hits and struck out three as he improved to 15-1 on the season.
He retired 19 of the 23 batters he faced and was aided by a pair of double plays in the fifth and seventh innings.
Vargas-Vila talked about his emotions leading up to his start in the national tournament.
“I’ve been the number three starter al year. When I was told I would be throwing the first game, there was a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves the day before and the day of. But I just wanted to try and throw strikes, make some pitches, get hitters out.”
The Owls (43-8-1) managed only four hits, two coming off the bat of Bryan Dorsey. They simply could not get the clutch hits or find a sense of consistency in their offense to keep pace with the Argonauts.
“I thought we had some good at bats, hit some balls hard, hit some balls deep, but we didn’t hit them where they weren’t and we couldn’t get anything going.” Owls head coach Tim Shea said.
Kevin Pettine took the loss. He worked 4 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. He struck out two of the 21 batters he faced in the game.
West Florida, which had won five of six heading into the national tourney, maintained its momentum with the victory. Head coach Mike Jeffcoat believes his team is playing with an extra bounce in its step at the moment.
“I know we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Jeffcoat said. “I think I had as many butterflies as they did. And as I mentioned to a few of them in the dugout, about the third or fourth inning, after (the butterflies) are gone, it’s just baseball again. It’s just another game.”