Slow start to the season didn’t hold back San Jacinto
They are usually the team to beat and ranked in the top five in the nation.
This year, the San Jacinto (Texas) College-North Gators, got off to a slow start but rallied to win the Region 14 South Division, then the Southern District title, to advance to the JUCO World Series.
San Jacinto (37-23) will open the JUCO World Series against No. 1 ranked Iowa Western Community College, which defeated the Gators twice to win the 2010 national title.
“I know going into Grand Junction it’s never a ranked tournament. It’s never No. 1 vs. No. 10,” San Jacinto coach Tom Arrington said. “Each district is in a rotation. We’re paired up in advance. Every opponent is very formidable; everyone is going to have a strength. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be there.”
For once, the Gators, with a NJCAA best five national titles in 18 previous appearances, may not be a popular choice to win the national title, but Arrington doesn’t look at it like that.
“I didn’t classify us as having an advantage, but I wouldn’t say we’re at a disadvantage this year, either,” Arrington said. “Just to get to the tournament, you have to have some sort of quality ballclub. We’ve taken our lumps over the years; dealing with adverse situations. I always think San Jac comes in with a quality club. I don’t like to compare teams I’ve had. I don’t try to compare. They are all unique in their own way. This one is unique in its strong will.”
The Gators overcame weather conditions, late nights and several extra innings to win the Southern District title this year.
“Any fan is going to get their money’s worth (watching this team),” Arrington said of winning three extra-inning games to qualify for the World Series.
“You don’t plan things out that way, but it shows integrity and grit to continue to strive for a win. Playing three games in a row like that, I’ve never done, then to do it in a playoff setting is even more uncharacteristic.
“Games like that are very demanding. We started at 5 p.m. and finished at 2 a.m. the next day. It’s very demanding. It can break you down. I have to give our team credit for its integrity of long-lasting commitment toward its goal.”
San Jacinto got off to a slow start this season, losing eight of its first 13 games this season.
“We had a lot of players that wanted to achieve a high standard, put they put a lot of undue pressure on themselves,” Arrington said. “If it doesn’t happen, an individual will tend to drop back further than they need to.
“There were several days we had lengthy discussions in the locker room. Ultimately, people adjust on their own. You can incarcerate individuals for crimes, but that doesn’t cure people. Ultimately our players understood that.”
The Gators are led by their pitching, with a handful of arms that can reach 90 mph.
Left-hander Daniel Stumpf has been the ace. The sophomore (8-2, 2.27 ERA) has 108 strikeouts in 111 innings pitched. He has signed with Lubbock Christian University.
Sophomore left-hander AJ Glasshof (8-5, 1.93 ERA) has signed with Southern Mississippi University. Anthony Banda (7-1, 2.27 ERA) has 73 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings.
They have a first-team all-region catcher to throw to in Kyle Bacak, who has signed with Texas Christian University.
Esteban Gomez leads the offense. The sophomore first baseman (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) is hitting .323 with 35 RBI. Center fielder Reggie Wilson is hitting .317 with 30 RBI and 25 stolen bases in the leadoff spot. Right fielder Justin Byrd is hitting .313 with 14 doubles and 23 RBI.