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Storybook ending for Sanderson

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D.H. Conley graduate Phillip Sanderson holds the NJCAA Division I World Series trophy after his Chipola College team won the championship.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Former D.H. Conley standout Phillip Sanderson willed junior college powerhouse Chipola (Fla.) College to the NJCAA Region 8 baseball championship and pitched in the semifinals of the World Series tournament to get Chipola to the national championship game, which seemed to put an end to Sanderon’s season.

But it wasn’t.

After pitching all five innings of the Indians’ 11-0 NJCAA Division I semifinal win June 1, Chipola led Walters State (Tenn.) Community College 9-7 in the eighth inning of the championship game the next day when Sanderson voluntarily took the mound. He worked the final two innings with ease to complete a 10-7 win.

“I went to coach (Jeff) Johnson and told him that if he needed me then I had six outs in me,” Sanderon said during a phone interview Thursday. “I was sitting in the dugout and didn’t really know where my glove was and he asked if I wanted to do it, and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’

“I ran down to the bullpen and got ready. Those last six outs I felt about as good as I’ve felt all year.”

Sanderson struck out four of the six batters he faced. He fanned the first two in the bottom of the ninth and induced a groundout to clinch the title.

Being on the pitcher’s mound at that moment meant he also was going to be at the bottom of a wild dogpile celebration. This marked the Indians’ second straight national title in Grand Junction, Colo.

“The sheer feeling of being champions just made everyone come in and we were so excited,” said the right-handed Sanderson, a 2016 Conley graduate who has signed with UNC Greensboro. “I got hit hard (for the dogpile), but I knew it was going to happen and it was worth it. … It was a crazy ride with a lot of traveling and not much sleep for about three straight days after that night.”

Sanderson got the save in his only relief appearance of his redshirt freshman season. He finished with 116 innings pitched in which he posted a 12-2 record with a 2.64 ERA, 95 strikeouts and 23 walks.

Chipola actually lost its first game at the World Series, falling 8-6 to Walters State before reeling off six straight victories.

Sanderson pitched three times in Grand Junction. He started May 27 against Barton (Kan.) CC and went 6 1/‚Äč3 frames in a 10-8 win to precede his dominant outings June 1 and June 2.

His list of people to call after the final victory included veteran Conley coach Jason Mills.

“I called coach Mills about 45 minutes after we got the last out,” he said. “He told me he was so proud of me and what we did, and to enjoy it. I thanked him, of course, for getting me there and I just love that guy.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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