HANCEVILLE -- It lasted longer than Shelton State envisioned, but the Buccaneers are Alabama Community College Conference champions for the third consecutive year.
Shelton State was pushed to the brink by fifth-seeded Faulkner State in Monday's championship round, losing 13-9 in 10 innings in the opener, but rebounded in the championship game and rolled to a 13-1 triumph at Wallace State-Hanceville's James C. Bailey Stadium.
"You never know when you are going to win one of these (championships), so when you get through to the finals, you want to win it," said Shelton State coach Bobby Sprowl. "There was a time where I got to this game seven or eight times and never won it. You don't take it for granted when you win. It's so hard to do."
Shelton State freshman Brett Whitaker was named Tournament MVP after batting .430 (9-for-21) in five games with seven RBIs and five runs scored. The Tuscaloosa native also pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn a victory against Faulkner State in a winner's bracket game on May 15.
"Winning this state championship is bigger than any award," Whitaker said. "It's been our goal since August to win this and we've worked so hard to get here. It's a dream come true for a lot of us to be able to go to Grand Junction (Colo.)."
Shelton State stayed in Hanceville for 11 days because the tournament was suspended on three different days because of inclement weather. The championship game was also pushed back four days.
It was worth the wait for Shelton State. The Buccaneers (43-17) are now headed to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., which begins May 23.
Shelton State lefty Josh Wirnsberger stymied Faulkner State's bats in the finale. He tossed a complete game, striking out 10 and allowing one run on six hits.
Wirnsberger (9-1) picked up a pair of wins in the tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team.
"Wirnsberger was the difference in us winning this last game," Sprowl said.
After clinging to a 4-0 advantage, Shelton State exploded for a five-run fifth inning to grab a commanding lead and break things open. The Buccaneers added a pair of runs in the seventh and ninth innings.
For Shelton State, John David Smelser finished 3-for-6 with a pair of RBIs, Caleb Coker had a three-run pinch-hit homer, Dustin Dunn had two RBIs and Whitaker, Nick Vickerson, David Kindred and Greg Guy all had multi-hit games.
Tailor Holley had a pair of hits for Faulkner State.
In Monday's opener, Cody Barber kept Faulkner State alive with a 10th-inning grand slam. It was Barber's second grand slam of the tournament after cranking one against Wallace State in the Sky Chiefs' opener.
Barber finished 3-for-6 with five RBIs and concluded the tournament with two homers and 12 RBIs.
Travis Corley won his third game of the tournament in relief. He went the final three innings and allowed two runs on four hits, while striking out two.
Corley was the winning pitcher in all three games the Sky Chiefs won. He had a save in another win.
For Faulkner State (38-21) in the opener, Michael Tedesco had four hits, including a solo homer, Holley was 3-for-6 with three runs scored, Huggins had a pair of hits and RBIs and Dustin Roberts added two hits.
Shelton State overcame 5-0 and 7-3 deficits and tied the game in the eighth and ninth innings on wild pitches before falling in the 10th.
Greg Guy had two hits and two RBIs for the Buccaneers, while David Isaacs was 2-for-2 off the bench. Logan Pierce had a pinch-hit, three-run double in the bottom of the fourth to plate the first runs for Shelton State.
Shelton State made up for the extra-inning loss in big fashion in the nightcap.
"We were down. It was a challenge for us to come back and compete," Whitaker added. "We stepped up to the challenge."
Members of the All-Tournament team were Wirnsberger, John David Smelser and Michael Carden, Shelton State; Travis Corley, Cody Barber and Tailor Holley, Faulkner State; Todd McRae and Chase Whitley, Southern Union; Bo Foster and Johnny Gunter, CVCC and Caleb Longshore, Jeff State.