JUCO Notebook: Wind, smoke plagues view of Grand Mesa

Wind, smoke plagues view of Grand Mesa

Grand Mesa disappeared from view Saturday with high winds blowing dirt and smoke from a wild fire in Paradox throughout the Grand Valley.

The wind didn’t really affect a lot of play on the field during the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, but it did knock down some fly balls, had a couple of others sailing over the heads of outfielders, and had fans burned by the sun and wind.

At 12:55 p.m., the National Weather Service reported wind steady at 30 mph with gusts up to 48, and was forecasting gusts up to 60 mph. The gusts stayed in the mid-40s throughout the afternoon and hit 54 during Game 3.

The wind was consistently blowing from right to left field, across the field, whipping the flags mounted above the grandstands at Suplizio Field straight toward North Avenue.

The outfielders were the most affected.

“Wow! It was crazy. I don’t know if you saw one of my plays, but I was coming in on it, and I thought it was going to drop in front of me, but it almost went over my head. I had to jump for it. It was crazy out there,” Neosho County (Kan.) Community College left-fielder Jordan Miller said.

The Panthers also took advantage of the wind.

“The only one that threw me off was when their leadoff guy hit the triple to right-center,” Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College coach Tim Wallace said. “The wind’s blowing straight in from right. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Talking to the guys from the first game, they were talking about how the wind was knocking it down, but other than that, nothing got misplayed. Again, they were playing small ball, and a wind isn’t going to affect a bunt.”

Spartanburg plays at 10 this morning in an elimination game against Iowa Western Community College.

“I sure hope they turn down the fans tomorrow,” Wallace said. “It was like an oscillating fan, going this way, then that way. I had rocks in my pocket to keep from blowing away.”

Good news, Coach: The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 70s, with wind 5-15 mph.

Meyer gives back: Coach Don Meyer, who spoke at Friday night’s tournament banquet, donated the proceeds from sales of his book after the tournament back to the JUCO World Series. All 200 available were sold, plus orders taken for 25 more, netting JUCO $5,625.

Rematch, 9 years later: The last time Neosho County was in Grand Junction, the Panthers played in Game 2 against Spartanburg Methodist, their same opponent as Saturday. Spartanburg, however, won that game 4-2, putting Neosho in the losers’ bracket. They were eliminated the next day.

Fast forward to 2012, Neosho returned the favor in an 11-3, 7-inning win, pushing the Pioneers into an elimination game today.

Gator sighting: New to JUCO this year, courtesy of San Jacinto (Texas) College-North — a team mascot. Mr. JUCO, the tournament’s mascot, has been around for five years, but Saturday morning, a person dressed in a Gator suit was pacing up and down near the San Jac fans behind the third-base dugout, and as he left the stadium, he had a few little kids tagging behind.

Alarm!: Early in Game 2, a strange beep went off in the first-base dugout — the alarm from the handicap chair lift in the dugout was going off. Field supervisor Eddie Mort quickly silenced it.

The new “Young Turk”: Kyle Rush, who resigned Tuesday as the baseball coach at Grand Junction High School after 12 years, was asked to join the JUCO Committee, and he was quick to go to work.

Friday night, he attended the coaches’ meeting before the banquet, and before Game 3, was explaining the ground rules to the coaches and umpires. He’s being groomed to work with the JUCO Commissioners and directors of tournament play, Walt Bergman, who was one of Rush’s assistant coaches, and Matt Hyde. It wasn’t that long ago that Bergman and Jamie Hamilton, now the tournament chairman, were dubbed “Young Turks” by former chairman Sam Suplizio.

Rush grew up attending JUCO games, wrestling and playing football and baseball at Fruita Monument and Mesa State, now Colorado Mesa University.

Tower shots: A handful of foul balls caromed off the face of the Lincoln Park Tower, a couple coming close to going through open windows on the press level, but all missed. The first two foul balls sailed over the 80-foot-high structure. The windows are made of tempered glass, and reinforced siding was put on the baseball side so it wouldn’t dimple.

Running like clockwork: Game 1 started at exactly 9 a.m., Game 2 was three minutes early, at 11:57, and the first pitch for Game 3 was announced at exactly 3 p.m., with Game 4’s first pitch announced at 7:30 p.m.

Uniform double-take: Western Nevada’s uniforms Saturday were nearly identical to those of Fruita Monument High School, with royal blue tops, right down to the script “Wildcats” across the front, and gray pants.

Speaking of royal blue, one team in each of the first three games wore royal blue jerseys: Iowa Western, Spartanburg Methodist and Western Nevada. All three were in the first-base dugout as the visiting team. Cisco (Texas) College also wears royal blue, but as the home team, was wearing white uniforms with royal blue trim and was in the third-base dugout.

n Bullpen day off: With its first game shortened to seven innings by the run rule, Neosho County ace Matt Strahm saved a little wear on his arm.

But he didn’t think about the advantage for him.

“It’s not so much wear on my arm, but saving our relievers is huge for us,” said Strahm, who now leads the Panthers with nine victories. “We’ve got two more great starting pitchers going to come in these next two games, and hopefully they can do the same thing, shut them down early, and hopefully we don’t have to go to our pen. If we do, they’re phenomenal, too. So, I think we’re going to do fine.”

Neosho has four pitchers with at least 12 starts, and each has at least seven wins and an ERA of 1.88 or better: Strahm, Chance Sinclair, Adam Giacalone and Daniel Peterson.

Max Ising is the closer with 10 saves in 24 appearances and a 0.79 ERA.

Attendance: The wind didn’t keep fans away early, drawing 16, 282 through the first four games, but the night game attendance was down, only 2,192.


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