Santa Fe takes over top spot in JUCO poll
Santa Fe (Fla.) College moved up three spots this week to No. 1 in the National Junior College Athletic Association/Perfect Game USA baseball poll.
The Saints (35-9) play in the Gulf District/Region 8 tournament May 7-11 in Lakeland, Fla.
Salt Lake (Utah) Community College (41-7), which held the No. 1 spot in the previous two polls, dropped to No. 5 after losing four consecutive games.
The next four weeks, The Daily Sentinel will take a look at one team from each district in contention for a berth in the JUCO World Series, which begins one month from today, May 28, at Suplizio Field:
Seward County (Kan.) Community College (37-18): The Saints clinched the Jayhawk Conference West Division title last weekend, guaranteeing them a spot in the Region 6 sub-regional tournament May 7. It is their ninth division title in the past 11 years. Tyler Hill leads the team with a .383 batting average and 47 RBI. Seward County qualified for the World Series in 2004.
No. 8 South Carolina-Sumter (36-9): The Fire Ants have won six of their past seven games and clinched a spot in the Region 10 tournament. Jake Kirkland is leading Sumter with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. He is hitting .304. Tyler Christman is 8-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 821⁄3 innings pitched. Sumter has never qualified for the World Series.
No. 4 Walters State (Tenn.) CC (37-10): The Senators won two of three games against No. 2 Chattanooga State (Tenn.) Community College and have won seven of their past nine games to take over first place in the Region 7 standings. The region champion advances to the district tournament against the Region 17 champion out of Georgia. Shane Grimm is 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 61 innings. Walters State won the 2006 national title and has qualified five times.
No. 1 Santa Fe (Fla.) College (35-9): The Saints clinched their third consecutive Mid-Florida Conference title with a 4-3 victory over Seminole State (Fla.) College. Santa Fe is led by Malcolm Clapsaddle, who is 11-1 with a 1.31 ERA and four complete games. Drew Doty leads the offense with a .395 batting average, 16 doubles, six home runs and 42 RBI. Santa Fe is looking for its third World Series appearance and first since 2009.
Olney Central (Ill.) College (35-13): The Blue Knights have won nine of their past 10 games to move into first place in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. Pitcher Jerad Eickhoff is 7-2 with a 2.50 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 61 innings.
Infielder Derek Peterson is hitting .389 with 43 RBI. Olney Central has never qualified for the World Series.
No. 16 Angelina (Texas) College (34-17): The Roadrunners lead the East Zone of Region 14 with a 17-7 record after sweeping Panola College last week. Angelina is led by pitcher Chase Greening (10-1), who threw a four-hitter against Panola and was an infield single away from a perfect game in his previous start, a 1-0 win over Navarro. Angelina is seeking its first World Series berth.
No. 13 Seminole State (Okla.) College (35-10): The Trojans have won nine consecutive games to clinch a spot in the Region 2 tournament. Pitcher Chase Stevens is 7-1 with a 1.75 ERA, with 85 strikeouts in 61 innings. Zach Luevanos is hitting .365 with 46 RBI. Seminole State has qualified for the World Series 16 times, most recently in 2009, but it has never won the national title.
Southern Union State (Ala.) Community College (36-17): The Bison have moved into first place in the Alabama Community College Conference South Division standings. Pitcher Will Starling is 10-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Chad Grant is hitting .331 with 38 RBI. Southern Union State has never qualified for the World Series.
No. 3 Howard (Texas) College (37-11): The Hawks have won 15 consecutive games heading into the final weekend to move into first place in Region 5’s West Texas division. Howard leads the nation with a .401 team batting average. Outfielder Tyler Collins is hitting .500 with 16 home runs and 70 RBI.
Howard has qualified twice (1991, 2009), winning the national title both times.
No. 2 Central Arizona College (42-12): The Vaqueros have won 18 of their past 21 games. Cody Gray (9-0) has a 1.65 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 17 walks. Central has a 2.33 team ERA and has allowed only two home runs. Sophomore outfielder Keenyn Walker is hitting .413 with 49 stolen bases and 41 RBI and freshman shortstop Jorge Flores is hitting .416 with 27 RBI and 24 stolen bases. The Vaqueros are hitting .345 as a team. Central Arizona is seeking its fifth JUCO appearance and has two titles, 1976 and 2002. The Vaqueros last qualified in 2008.