Tallahassee CC is No. 1 in latest poll
Mike McLeod has been coaching baseball at Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College for two dozen years.
He’s been oh, so close to winning the Gulf District title, but has yet to visit Grand Junction.
“I think it takes a little luck,” he said, “and I’m ready to get lucky.”
The Eagles (45-8) won the Panhandle Conference and are the top seed in the district tournament, which begins Friday in Lakeland, Fla.
Tallahassee is ranked No. 1 entering the playoffs as teams across the country play for one of 10 spots in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Cowley County (Kan.) Community College (44-9) is ranked second, Delgado (La.) Community College (43-9) is third and defending national champion Iowa Western Community College (39-10) is fourth. Crowder (Mo.) College (43-11) is fifth, College of Southern Nevada (38-15) is sixth and Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College (41-13) is seventh. Cochise (Ariz.) College, Navarro (Texas) College and Grayson (Texas) College round out the top 10.
Five teams moved into the top 20 this week, including State College of Florida at No. 15, Midland (Texas) College at 16, Georgia Perimeter College at 17, Potomac State (W.Va.) College at 18 and Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College at No. 19.
Normally by this time the Gulf District tourney has been played, and the first qualifier for JUCO is making travel plans.
The coaches in Florida, though, didn’t like having more than two weeks before the national tournament with nothing to do but practice and scrimmage. Instead, they shifted the tournament back one week, with the championship game scheduled for May 14.
The drawback to that, though, is too much time between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs for McLeod’s taste.
“It’s terrible. We have way too much time off,” he said. “Either way, too much room on the front side or the back side. Right now it’s too much time on the front side, in my opinion. But they said sitting out three weeks before you go to Grand Junction is no good, either.”
All McLeod knows is he wants to see first-hand how the new schedule plays out.
“We’ve come close,” he said. “We’ve never made it. That eight-team tournament (in Florida) is a bear.”
His sophomore-laden team shares the load, especially the pitching staff.
“We don’t have that big pitcher everybody seems to have,” McLeod said. “We just have a lot of guys who can throw it over the plate. We’ve got 192 appearances (in 53 games).
“We use a lot of guys; we try to keep 12 arms going all the time. Short bursts have been our key. We’ve got one guy who’s won eight games but only pitched 60 innings. We don’t have anybody over 60, 65 innings. All the other programs have guys at 100 innings.”
He hopes that deep, fresh-armed pitching staff will pay off in the playoffs as other teams run low on pitching.
McLeod wants desperately to get to the JUCO World Series, May 25 to June 1, not only for his program, players and fans, but his father.
“My dad is 89 years old and is a retired lawyer,” he said. “He took over my concession stand when my mother passed away (in 1999). Nobody wants to go to Grand Junction worse than he does.
“We might as well do it this year. It would be great; it would be very special for him and me.”