Quick start has Connors State atop JUCO poll at 29-2
It usually takes a few weeks for a team to find its identity.
That’s not the case for the Connors State (Okla.) College baseball team this season.
The Cowboys (29-2), who are off to one of their best starts in school history, are atop the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I poll, released Wednesday.
“We’ve had some quick starts before, but this is one of our better ones,” Connors State coach Perry Keith said. “It’s hard to compare teams, but I like the demeanor of this bunch a lot. I thought in January this bunch had it figured out. That’s a little bit different. They have a feel for what they want to do.”
Connors State is usually a nationally ranked team year in and year out, but this season is the first time the Cowboys have been in the top 10 since 2006, when they last qualified for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. This year’s national tournament is May 29-June 5 at Suplizio Field.
Connors State was ranked in the top 10 at least once for 15 consecutive seasons.
The College of Southern Nevada (27-5) moved up one spot to No. 2. The Coyotes are on a nine-game winning streak.
San Jacinto (Texas) College (25-6) is third, Howard (Texas) College (27-5) is fourth and Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College (29-6) is fifth.
Yavapai (Ariz.) College (25-11) moved up one spot to sixth, Chattahoochee Valley (Tenn.) Community College (23-4) is seventh and Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College (26-6) jumped up 12 spots to No. 8. Walters State (Tenn.) Community College (15-5) and John A. Logan (Ill.) College (21-5) round out the top 10.
Connors State took the top spot in the previous poll and has held on to it with little trouble, but Keith, the Cowboys’ coach for 23 seasons, knows each team faces some adversity through the course of a season.
“It’s a baseball season, there are going to be some bumps in the road,” Keith said. “There are going to be streaks when nothing goes right. I remind them about that every day.”
The Cowboys have hit the ball well all season and are third in the nation with a .381 batting average.
“We swing the ball pretty well,” Keith said. “We’re pretty well-rounded. We haven’t beaten ourselves. People have to beat us. We’ve played pretty solid.”
The Cowboys’ offense is led by Marcus Knecht. He is third in the nation with 15 home runs.
“He is projected to (be drafted) in the first two or three rounds,” Keith said. “He runs a 6.5 60-yard dash.”
Teammate Daniel Meeley isn’t far behind with nine home runs. He hit .440 last year to win the South Central District Big Stick Award for the highest batting average.
“We’re a gap-power team,” Keith said. “We don’t run well, but I don’t think we have holes in our lineup, either.”
The pitching staff is led by 2009 honorable mention All-American pitcher Josh Eidt.
The sophomore is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 29 innings. He was 7-1 with a 2.81 ERA last season.Jake Fisher is 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA and has walked six batters in 282⁄3 innings of work. Kyle Wormington is 40 with a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings.