HARD-WORK WRANGLERS: Cisco has been building JUCO power since 2012 trip
Things could have easily turned south for the Cisco College (Texas) baseball team this season.
Wranglers coach David White had to cut three players from the team during the regular season after they violated team rules. Cisco then lost one of its top players, outfielder Michael Burns, for the season after he was diagnosed with cancer. He had already committed to the University of Miami.
Considering those circumstances, Cisco could have been content to go through the motions and finish out the season.
Instead, the Wranglers found a way to flourish and qualified for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for the second time in the program’s 12-year history.
“Things like this ... make me proud to be a coach,” said White, who started the program in 2005. “All of these guys, they just don’t know any better than to do what they’ve been doing.”
The Wranglers, White said, have a blue-collar, workmanlike mentality that hasn’t wavered since the season opener. That mentality carried them to their best record since 2012, when Cisco went 48-15 and made its first trip to JUCO.
There’s also a sense of family that has remained consistent throughout the year, even when White dismissed the three players from the team. The coach wouldn’t comment on why the players, all pitchers, were dismissed, but said they each have attended games afterward.
“We might swing the bat a little better this time around than in our last trip to Grand Junction,” White said. “We don’t have the pitching depth we had to start the season, but we had to regroup to make it this far. I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen when everything went down, but I’m sure glad it did.”
The ace of the staff is sophomore left-hander Jeb Bargfeldt (10-1). In 84 1/3 innings, he’s allowed only 24 walks and had 110 strikeouts — good for seventh-best among NJCAA pitchers. He also threw a no-hitter in February. Sophomore right-hander Trae Patterson, who began the year as the Wranglers’ closer and underwent Tommy John surgery prior to this season, moved into the starting rotation after the Wranglers’ roster shake-up and has performed well, White said.
The pitching staff was so depleted at one point that Troy Chezem, a freshman right-hander, was added to the roster. White said Chezem was pulled out of the dorms and added to the roster. He started the district title game against Midland on May 17, allowing five earned runs in five innings and getting the decision in Cisco’s 9-6 victory.
Even after the loss of Burns, the Wranglers still enter JUCO with a .388 team batting average that ranks third in the NJCAA, trailing only Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Iowa Western (both at .389). The most productive player in the lineup has been sophomore first baseman Zachary Rheams (.475, 16 HR, 91 RBI), whose RBI total ranks among the best in the nation. Almost as productive is freshman infielder Ryan Nelson (.436, 15 HR, 77 RBI). Sophomore outfielder Delvin Granberg comes into the tournament hitting .519.
“We put up some runs, and we don’t get cheated out of any hits,” White said. “We have people 1 through 9 in the lineup who can get on base and come through with a hit when we need one. It’s been that way all year for us.”
Now, the Wranglers, who last time they came to JUCO went 0-2 in the tournament, hope their clutch hitting can continue throughout the tournament.
“We need to have a little luck, get a good draw and hit the ball well,” White said. “That’s what we’ve done throughout the season, and we’ve got a shot if we keep that up.”