JUCO Notebook, May 27, 2012

Broken radar gun denies fans chance to see top prospect’s heat

The “Speed of Pitch” gun flickered on and off during Sunday’s second game of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, just when Western Nevada College ace Dylan Baker was on the mound and everyone in the stadium wanted to check out just how fast he can throw.

After tinkering with it for most of the game, the control box was taken upstairs to the press box and “surgery” performed.

Turns out one of the wires had crimped, and some of the small strands of the wire had broken. It was clipped, reattached, and the speed gun was back working in time for the night game.

“What, was he throwing too fast and it broke?” quipped more than one fan.

Baker, the top-ranked prospect in the junior college ranks by Perfect Game USA, has been clocked in the low to mid-90s, his coach, D.J. Whittemore said.

Annual JUCO wind: Pat Tomscha of Sioux City, Iowa, was one of the fans who braved 50 mph wind gusts on opening day Saturday. On Sunday morning, during Iowa Western Community College’s 4-1 win over Spartanburg Methodist College, he was treated to less wind and even some sun.

“It was a great baseball day,” Tomscha said. “Yesterday, there was just dust everywhere. And we couldn’t see mountains.”

Tomscha remembers the 2011 JUCO World Series when, on Monday, there were similar winds.

“I hear there’s only weather like this once a year here,” Tomscha said. “I guess once a year when JUCO starts, the winds come in.”

Survived the hurricane: Iowa Western first baseman Keaton Steele said the wind blows in the 20 to 30 mph range “pretty much every day” in Iowa, “so we’re pretty used to it.”

But what it experienced on Day 1 in Grand Junction was an adventure.

“Yesterday toward the end of the day, actually it was starting to get a little bit of a whirlwind and stuff like that it,” he said. “It looked like a hurricane out here.”

History of No. 1s: Western Nevada has a history of facing No. 1-ranked opponents at the JUCO World Series.

In 2007, The Wildcats split with No. 1 New Mexico Junior College. In 2009, they lost twice to Howard (Texas) College.

And they will play No. 1 Iowa Western Community College at 10 a.m. today.

“You have to beat the best anyway,” Nevada Western coach D.J. Whittemore said.

Early exit: Cisco (Texas) College went 0-2 and was eliminated. It was the second consecutive year the Southwestern District champion went 0-2 in the JUCO World Series, with Grayson County (Texas) College making the quick exit last year.

The Southwestern District champion has won six of the past 20 national titles, more than any other district.

Small but mighty: The Gordon (Ga.) College baseball team had a full roster when the players first reported to practice last fall, but the Highlanders lost six players to season-ending injuries by early season and two more quit right before the regional playoffs began. They brought 20 players to the World Series. Each team is allowed 26 eligible players.

Bullpen day off: With its first game shortened to seven innings by the run rule, Neosho County (Kan.) Community College ace Matt Strahm saved a little wear on his arm Saturday.

But he didn’t think about the advantage for him.

“It’s not so much wear on my arm, but saving our relievers is huge for us,” said Strahm, who now leads the Panthers with nine victories. “We’ve got two more great starting pitchers going to come in these next two games, and hopefully they can do the same thing, shut them down early, and hopefully we don’t have to go to our pen. If we do, they’re phenomenal, too.”

Neosho has four pitchers with at least seven wins and an ERA of 1.88 or better: Strahm, Chance Sinclair, Adam Giacalone and Daniel Peterson.

Max Ising is the closer with 10 saves in 24 appearances and a 0.79 ERA.

Wanting more: The last time Neosho was in the JUCO World Series was 2003, and coach Steve Murry, now in his 26th season, said he remembers it like yesterday.

“Next to having my children, this is the greatest thing ever, the first time we were here,” he said.

That trip, though, was two games and out. A championship this time around would no doubt become the new No. 2 memory, and the Panthers took the first step Saturday, beating Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.).

Attendance: The crowd for Sunday night’s game between Gordon (Ga.) College and Shelton State (Ala.) Community College was the largest of the first two days at 6,699. The three games on Day 2 brought in 15,526 fans and the two-day total is 31,808.


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