Pitching helps Shelton State (Ala.) return to JUCO after 3-year hiatus

Bobby Sprowl has been around long enough to know you need to make the most of your chances to reach the national tournament.

“I told my assistant coach, ‘If you get to the championship game, you better win it, because you don’t know how many more chances you’re going to get,’ ” Sprowl said Friday after Shelton State (Ala.) College won the Southeastern District championship game 4-1 over Wallace-Hanceville. “We lost in the championship game a couple of years ago, and last year we stunk. You just never know when it’s going to come around again. I got on our sophomores most of the year because we were so bad in the tournament the year before. They played hard this year.”

Shelton State (37-21) has won eight straight games and went 4-0 in the district tournament in Ozark, Ala., to return to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for the first time since 2009.

With some weather issues early in the tournament and the way the eight-team tournament was set up, the Bucs got an extra day off, which helped their pitching staff.

“I tell people any time you get in one of these tournaments, you’ve gotta be lucky, good and get some breaks,” Sprowl said. “A lot of times it’s not what happens on the field. We had weather, then we played, then we had a bye, then some rain, and we were able to get our closer back.”

With a veteran pitching staff, the Bucs won two one-run games and two three-run games, and for the most part, the entire Alabama tournament was closely contested.

“Our pitching is mostly sophomores, and you’ve gotta be able to pitch in tournaments, or you can’t compete. You’ve got to stay away from big innings,” Sprowl said. “You have to have pitchers making pitches and defense making plays.”

■ Eastern Oklahoma is one win from reaching the JUCO World Series from the South Central District. The Mountaineers beat Delgado (La.) 8-6, and after Jefferson (Mo.) College eliminated the Dolphins 16-6, Eastern Oklahoma won 5-3. The two remaining teams play at noon today, with Jefferson needing to win twice to advance.

■ Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist downed Harford (Md.) 9-5 in the first game of a best-of-three series in the Eastern District and need only to win one today to qualify.

■ Gordon (Ga.) College and Columbia (Tenn.) State each won first-round games in the East Central District and play today to reach the title game. Walters State (Tenn.) and Middle Georgia, the top seeds from their respective regions, play an elimination game this afternoon.

■ Top-seeded Salt Lake Community College was upset 3-0 by Western Nevada in the semifinals of the Western District, then had to come back to beat Lamar 6-2 in an elimination game to get to today’s title game. Lamar sent Central Arizona home with a 12-2 victory.


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