Polk State first to qualify for JUCO

Gulf District champions coming to Grand Junction for first time

Al Corbeil couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Conor Szczerba scored from second base on a two-out base hit in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday to seemingly lift Polk State (Fla.) College to a 1-0 win over Palm Beach Community College.

It was a second-round game in the Gulf District junior college baseball tournament, and the Eagles were celebrating the win.

“Our runner on second came in and jumped on the plate and everybody was on the field celebrating,” the Polk State coach said Monday after the sixth-ranked Eagles won the district title to qualify for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

“Their first baseman came running down and said he missed the plate. The umpire was in no position to make the call and it got to be an emotional call, people were yelling he missed the plate.

“He must have thought, ‘Oh, me missed the plate’ and ended up making a call I don’t think anybody in the history of the game had seen.”

The umpire called Szczerba out, wiping out the only run of the game and sending it to extra innings.

“We freeze-framed the video and went back and there’s no evidence that he missed the plate,” Corbeil said.

Palm Beach won 4-0, knocking the Eagles into the elimination bracket. There, they won four straight, including Monday’s 8-4 win over Palm Beach, to qualify for JUCO for the first time in school history.

“We told the guys they were the first team in the history of the state tournament to have to win six games to get to the World Series,” said Corbeil, who played in the 1999 JUCO World Series for Manatee (Fla.) Community College, now the State College of Florida.

“We went 5-1, but really we won six games.”

After the tournament, Polk State Athletic Director Bing Tyus handed Szczerba the plate, which the entire team signed.

Corbeil will give the Eagles (45-10) a few days off to recover from the state playoffs. He’ll make travel arrangements and come up with ideas to keep his team fresh until coming to Grand Junction

“It’s something I told the guys was the best experience of my playing career at any level, pro, Division I, the way that town shuts down and revolves around the World Series and these kids,” Corbeil said.

“This is the first time Polk State has ever gone to the World Series, our third time in school history to get to the postseason. The last two years we made the state tournament.

“We’ve got a great group of kids, great chemistry and they work hard. They’re going to love it out there.”


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