For the first time since 1966, all 10 teams have experience playing in World Series

Jake Waardenburg and The Western Nevada wildcats are used to playing in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, having made their debut in 2007. For the first time in 43 years, the 2009 tournament features no first-time qualifiers.

The 2009 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series has one novel aspect about its field of teams.

For the first time in 43 years, there are no first-time programs playing in the tournament.

“It’s unique, but I’m not surprised because now Division I junior college schools have more resources to make their efforts more consistent,” JUCO Tournament Director Jamie
Hamilton said. “You look at the first day, and there are three to four really strong match-ups.”

The 10 teams playing for this year’s JUCO title have combined for 67 World Series appearances, and have won 12 championships. The top three programs in terms of appearances in tournament history are all in this year’s field: San Jacinto (Texas) College-North has 16 appearances, Seminole State (Okla.) College has 14, and Middle Georgia College has 12.

Western Nevada made its first appearance in 2007, and coach D.J. Whittemore said he learned a lot about what it takes to compete in Grand Junction.

“You have gotta score a lot of runs,” Whittemore said. “The ball really carries here, and the games tend to be high scoring.”

Although the rosters of each of those teams are drastically different, all six return the same head coach. Wildcats pitcher Josh Moody said it’s still hard to know what you are going to see, but Whittemore does have a head start on tendencies.

Even the teams that haven’t been here this decade, Howard (Texas) College and Santa Fe (Florida) College, both have some experience in playing a national event. Howard’s 57-game win streak put the team in the limelight before the Hawks even made it to Grand Junction.

“We have been in a fishbowl for about six weeks,” Howard coach Britt Smith said. “But it’s been a lot of fun, and a testament to our kids.”

Santa Fe’s last trip to JUCO was in 1985, but the Saints’ head coach at the time, Harry Tholen, is now an assistant for the team. Current head coach Johnny Wiggs said Tholen has given the team a lot of insight on what to expect.

“He talked to us before our state tournament, and told us about how wonderful the JUCO tournament is,” Wiggs said. “He talked about the environment, the support and he just painted a good picture to give the guys some vision about Grand Junction.”

Santa Fe’s leading hitter, Andy Mee, said Tholen advised them about the dry Colorado climate.

“He told us to stay hydrated, because we aren’t going to know that we are dehydrated,” Mee said. “Everyone here is a good program. We are hoping to make a statement.”

Although there are no first-timers in the field, six teams — Western Nevada, Iowa Western Community College, Santa Fe, Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College, Seminole State and Shelton State (Ala.) CC — will be vying for their first JUCO crown.


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