Delgado delight: New Orleans squad ready for World Series
The last time the Delgado Community College baseball team qualified for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, the Dolphins were escaping the worst nightmare of their lives.
Hurricane Katrina had decimated New Orleans. The campus was flooded, as was Kirsch-Rooney Stadium. Coach Joe Scheuermann’s family lost its home, which was only a mile from campus.
The players from that 2007 team helped not only their families, but people they didn’t even know, clear their homes and start to rebuild. They scraped muck and silt off everything in their path.
Baseball was their escape. Scheuermann said that team was destined to get to the World Series to help the players heal.
“Those kids were freshmen when Katrina hit (in August, 2005), so it was rewarding to get those kids there,” Scheuermann said. “It’s been a little too long (between visits to Grand Junction).”
Seven years later, Scheuermann has a new home, and his son, Tyler, who graduated high school while his father was in Grand Junction, is now an assistant for the Dolphins.
“I missed his high school graduation and now he’s my right-hand man,” Scheuermann said of Tyler, who is the school’s sports information director and head of baseball operations. “This year I’ll have my son, my wife and my daughter all coming.”
This year’s players were only in third grade when the hurricane hit. They remember, but this year’s trip, Scheuermann said, is more about baseball and winning.
That’s not to say some strange coincidences have cropped up the past couple of years.
Last year the South Central District tournament was at Connors State in Oklahoma. When the Dolphins returned to their hotel after being eliminated, the desk clerk advised them if they could get out of town that night, they should.
“She said the forecast for Sunday and Monday was petrifying, with tornadoes everywhere,” Scheuermann said.
He got half of the team out that night, he, his assistants and the rest of the team stayed in Tulsa. Some tornadoes hit that night and they were called into the storm shelter area. They flew out at 6 a.m. the next day, not long before the huge tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma.
“It was something I never want to live through again,” he said.
This year, the district tournament was in Neosho, Missouri. The Dolphins stayed in Joplin and saw an all-too-familiar scene, the rebuilding effort from the tornadoes that decimated that city a year ago.
“We were a block and a half from where the tornado went through,” Scheuermann said. “It was eerie. The similarity of homes being built, those pre-fab houses and the same total clearing of landscape.”
The 2007 team went 0-2 in Grand Junction.
“We weren’t there long enough to get my underwear dirty,” he said, laughing. “We’re looking forward to coming back and doing a better job.”
He’s bringing the second-ranked team in the nation to Grand Junction in 2014.
“We’ve been pretty solid all year long. We throw it over the plate, and in junior college, that’s very important,” he said. “Make them put the ball in play. We’ve got strike-throwers and we’ve been able to do enough offensively to help them. It’s been that kind of year.”
Offensively, the Dolphins (43-11) hit .319 as a team and have hit 105 doubles in their big park.
“Our strength is the fact that we have guys that throw strikes and we move the ball enough to score runs for them. That’s a pretty good combination,” Scheuermann said.
Josh Watkins and Cody Ducote do a pretty good job of moving runners around the bases.
Watkins, a sophomore outfielder and transfer from Southeastern Louisiana University, is hitting .368 with 50 RBI. Ducote, a freshman catcher/outfielder, has driven in 51 runs and hits .333 with 14 doubles. Austin Barrios, a sophomore outfielder, provides some power, with 12 doubles and seven home runs, and Christopher Eades leads the Dolphins with eight home runs. He’s a sophomore catcher who is hitting .316.
On the mound, the Dolphins have three solid left-handers in the starting rotation, led by sophomore Chase Hymel, who is 7-0 with 50 more strikeouts than walks (77-27). Brooks Vial, a freshman, is 8-1 and Jordan Priddle, a sophomore, 5-1. When they go to the bullpen, Scott Stonestreet, a right-handed sophomore, has a miniscule 0.71 ERA in 38 innings, with 37 strikeouts and eight walks. Jonathan Ebersole, a freshman, has thrown 25 2/3 innings with a 1.75 ERA and 19 strikeouts.
Scheuermann said the BBCOR bats have been good for the game both offensively and for pitchers.
“Everybody wants to knock the bat,” he said. “Your pitching at this level isn’t what it is at Division I. We’re competitive enough, but the bat keeps the game in play. It becomes a game again as opposed to home run contests.
“The argument against the bat isn’t legitimate. We were playing Meridian this year and our first baseman hit the Meridian pitcher square in the jaw, no glove touch. I thought the kid was dead. For the first time in my life coaching, I feared what I was going to see. When I saw the trainers working on him, the first thing I said was, ‘Does he have a pulse?’ It knocked him out cold. I feared he was critically injured. With the old bat, he would have been dead. It’s things like that you see and you want to go up there and swing a wet newspaper.
“People worry too much about run production. Let’s play baseball. It’s gotten the game of baseball back. Bunt, defend the bunt, it’s a game again.”