Chipola gets homecoming celebration with second national championship trophy in hand

MARIANNA, FL (WJHG/WECP) The Chipola baseball team is back home after notching the program's second national championship this past week in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The team flying from Denver to Atlanta, and then busing it back to campus Monday, with some some local folks from the college and around Marianna there to greet them.

Coach Jeff Johnson and his team, after losing it's second game in Grand Junction, came back to win five in a row, in five days. The final two wins coming against the same San Jac team that beat them a week ago today.

So Chipola winding up 11-1 at the state and national tournaments, against the best competition possible!

This the second national championship for coach Johnson and this Chipola program, the first coming in 2007.

Here's the now two-time national champion head coach! He talked about Moday's reception!

"Well it's the Chipola Nation we all talk about." Johnson says "They may not all be here in person at the games but they are here in spirit with you. It's just the support we have in the community, it's what makes us difference from other people. And just proud to see them out here today. You wouldn't believe the amount of texts, calls, emails that I got in the last ten days. You know after the game on Saturday night I had 300 text messages that went about an hour and a half. So it's just great to have people who care about you."

As for what it's like winning a second national championship, well coach says the first one kind of helps to set up the second.

"It was just euphoria, and something that you never think you're gonna get to do. You're always striving to do it, it's one of your goals but you always wonder if it's ever gonna happen for you. Then in '07 it happened for us. And then this year going back, you have a confidence one you have done it, that you can do it again. But again it had been ten years. But I'll tell you what, these kids never flinched when we got behind in games. And it didn't seem to bother them when we lost a game. And we didn't lose many, 51-9 this year, which is the most wins I've ever had in a season. And we didn't have double digit losses."

As for the players, the feeling is sinking in, says first baseman Reynold Rivera. "It feels amazing to say we're national champions. And that we're gonna make history at Chipola, or the second team making history

And second baseman Jose Caballero, who hit five homers in Grand Junction, that last out Saturday night was an exciting cap to the title!

"You just see the ball, and it was a fly ball to the infield, and I was there. And we didn't decide who got to the ball. And it was a little scary. And finally (Andrew) Bechtold caught it, and it just felt like...great!"

With Chipola's titles in' 07 and '17, and Northwest Florida's title in 2015, that's three national championships for the Panhandle Conference in the last 11 seasons.