JUCO field is complete with four first-timers

Every team is just a little bit wide-eyed at the start of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Four teams might be especially awe-struck when they reach Grand Junction this week as first-time qualifiers. Chattanooga (Tenn.) State Community College (34-17) defeated Gordon (Ga.) College 10-8 on Sunday to win the East Central District championship, the Tigers’ first district title.

Crowder (Mo.) College rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the South Central District title game to beat Delgado (La.) Community College 11-7 for the Roughriders’ first trip to Grand Junction.

Sunday’s third qualifier is no rookie — Iowa Western Community College will make its 12th trip west after a 9-4 victory over Wabash Valley (Ill.) College, sweeping through the three-team Northern District tournament.

Faulkner (Ala.) Community College is a first-time qualifier from the Southeastern District, and Pitt (N.C.) Community College won the Eastern title for the first time.

JUCO begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Suplizio Field with four games, starting with Chattanooga and second-time qualifier Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Temple (Texas) College is making its second trip to JUCO, as is 2003 national champion College of Southern Nevada.

It’s the first time a team from the State College of Florida has won the Gulf District — sort of. The school changed its name from Manatee Community College this year. Manatee qualified 10 times, and the school has also changed mascots, from the Lancers to the Manatees, to remember its history.

And of course, the team that needs no introduction is back for its 21st appearance, San Jacinto (Texas) College-North.

The Gators are making their 18th trip from the North campus in Houston; San Jacinto-Central qualified three times before the schools combined athletic teams, assigning certain sports to each campus. Baseball is played at the North campus.

Ironically, the two teams with the most appearances in this year’s field — San Jac and Iowa Western — are the only two back from last season.

Nine of the 10 teams are ranked in the most recent poll — another is due out by Wednesday. Only Temple didn’t make the top 25.

San Jac is No. 1, Southern Nevada No. 2, State College of Florida No. 3, Pitt No. 4, Iowa Western No. 8, Faulkner State No. 10, Chattanooga State No. 11, Crowder No. 15 and Hutch No. 22.

Teams will begin arriving in town Wednesday afternoon and evening, and the festivities begin Thursday with the free youth clinic from 5-7 p.m. at Suplizio Field. Boys and girls ages 12 and younger will be taught the fundamentals from JUCO players and coaches.

Tournament passes are available at any Alpine Bank location, Chamber of Commerce, City Market, Gene Taylor’s, Harbert Lumber, Fisher’s Liquor Barn, Mesa Mall, B&H Sports, Albertson’s, Safeway and Wal-Mart or online at http://www.jucogj.org.

Passes, good for all 19 games, are $25 for adults and $20 for students (ages 6-21) and seniors (55-older). Passes go up $5 each if purchased at the gate. Single-game tickets are available at the gate only for $8. Single-game tickets for Games 18 and 19 are $10. Tickets for night games go on sale between 5:30 and 6 p.m.


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