JUCO: Pitching has been big for Spartanburg

Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College has become one of the familiar faces at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, with three appearances since 2000.

After traveling to Grand Junction in 2001 and 2003, Spartanburg finished third in 2007.

For Pioneers coach Tim Wallace, making regular trips to JUCO helps keep an aura of success around the program.

“The players are here for only two years, so if you get out of that cycle where they don’t have that taste in their mouth and can’t imagine what it’s like, it gets hard to get there,” Wallace said.

Spartanburg (35-5) is ranked second in Wednesday’s NJCAA poll.

“We have thrown up a pretty good record,” Wallace said. “Talent-wise, it’s a good group and if we can finish what we started, we’ll be OK.”

The Pioneers are led by their pitching, which includes Marty Gantt, Heath Hembree and Jimmy Revan. All three pitchers have six wins and ERAs under 2.00. The pitching staff is bolstered by closer Patrick Mincey and No. 4 starter Josh Salay.

“On our conference weekends, we have doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, so we are able to run out four pretty solid arms, with a solid closer,” Wallace said. “Our ERAs are low; we don’t strike out a lot of people, but we throw strikes and mix it up.”

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by sophomore catcher Steve Cochrane, who transferred from Yavapai (Ariz.) College.

“He is a twice-drafted switch-hitting catcher that does a great job for us,” Wallace said.
Gantt also is the Pioneers’ right fielder and leadoff hitter when he isn’t pitching and leads the team with 39 RBI.

As for teams across the nation, the key for Spartanburg is making it through a tough Region 10 tournament, followed by the Eastern District tournament.

“It really doesn’t matter what we do prior to our region tournament,” Wallace said. “We have to be playing well at the end to get to Grand Junction.”

Howard (Texas) College is still No. 1 and still undefeated, winning its first 42 games. The Hawks have 14 games to play before the Region 5 tournament May 9-13 in Fort Worth.

The Hawks are led by Will Calhoun, who leads the nation with a .634 on-base-percentage. He also has a .527 batting average.

Some of the top 10 teams switched spots, but stayed in the top half of the rankings.

Young Harris (Ga.) College and Yavapai (Az.) stayed at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Miami Dade College moved up one spot to No. 5 and Walters State (Tenn.) Community College jumped from No. 10 to No. 8.

Tournament passes for the JUCO World Series are on sale at outlets throughout Grand Junction, and banquet tickets are on sale at the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and in the JUCO office in the Home Loan building.

The 52nd annual JUCO World Series is May 23-30 at Suplizio Field.


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