Bryce Harper showing his potential for Southern Nevada
This season has been anything but normal for the College of Southern Nevada.
There were 120 scouts for the season-opening weekend and hundreds of media requests for 17-year-old phenom Bryce Harper.
Harper, who quit high school and passed a GED course so he could prepare himself for a professional baseball career, is projected to be the first junior college player to be the No. 1 pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft. Harper has lived up to the hype.
“I’ve known him since he was 5, 6 years old,” Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers said. “With us being in a wood-bat league and pitching rich teams, I knew he would have to make some adjustments, but I didn’t expect him to do what he’s doing.”
Harper has hit eight of the team’s 18 home runs and only needs five more to tie the individual single-season school record, Chambers said.
“The home runs he hits, I can’t believe he would be a junior in high school,” Chambers said. “He hit one over the lights last weekend.”
That’s not all.
Harper, who is hitting .413, has 70 total bases and an .875 slugging percentage. The next closest player has 45 total bases and a .564 slugging percentage.
Despite all the attention Harper is getting, it hasn’t distracted the Coyotes from winning.
Although Southern Nevada (19-5) dropped from the top spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association poll, the Coyotes are still ranked third. They have won six of their past eight since they were No. 1.
“I expected to drop in the poll this week,” Chambers said. “Our league is haywire compared to others because we’re so spread out. We play doubleheaders Friday and Saturday in less than 24 hours. The best teams in the league usually have more losses than any other top teams (in the country). It is difficult, especially on the road. You go six days without live pitching, if you don’t have an intrasquad scrimmage.”
Connors St. (Okla.) College (25-1) moved up to No. 1 from No. 3. Pitt (N.C.) CC (17-1) is second. San Jacinto (Texas) College (19-6) dropped from second to fourth and Howard (Texas) College (19-5) dropped from third to fifth.
Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College (22-5) is ranked sixth, Yavapai (Ariz.) College (18-8) is seventh and Walters State (Tenn.) Community College (10-4) is eighth. Young Harris (Ga.) College (19-4) and John A. Logan (Ill.) College (13-4) round out the top 10.
Although Harper is proving he can hit a wood bat at the college level, it’s been the pitching that’s led the Coyotes this season.
Three of the pitchers are Division I transfers, including Harper’s older brother, Bryan. The sophomore transfer from Cal State-Northridge is 5-1 with 41 strikeouts in 261⁄3 innings. Aaron Kurcz, who transferred from Air Force, is 11-0 with a 2.70 ERA and Donn Roach, who transferred from Arizona, is 4-1 with 41 strikeouts in 36 innings. The staff has a 2.39 ERA with 239 strikeouts in 1991⁄3 innings.
The pitching, along with the defense, could be what gets the Coyotes back to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for the first time since they won the national championship in 2003. The JUCO World Series is May 29-June 5.
“My wife is in the production business,” Chambers said. “She put together a highlight video (of the World Series) we show recruits. You just hope you get back.
“It’s crazy with our district. We feel like there are two teams in our conference and two teams in Arizona that should have an opportunity to compete for World Series every year. It’s tough.”