Young Harris College making final push to return to GJ for JUCO

Young Harris (Ga.) College coach Rick Robinson is fighting the same battle many junior college coaches are experiencing right now.

He is trying to keep his players focused at the most crucial time of the season.

The Mountain Lions (43-10) are playing in the Region 17 tournament this weekend for a chance to earn a berth in the East Central District tournament May 15-17. The winner of that tournament moves on to the Junior College World Series May 23-30 in Grand Junction.

After finishing No. 4 in the final NJCAA poll released April 28, Young Harris is now fighting to prevent distractions.

“We have had 14 players sign to play Division I baseball, so I think a lot of times players have bigger things to look forward to than Young Harris baseball,” Robinson said. “It’s my job to focus them for an entire year. A few of the teams we are going against this weekend have players who’ll be participating in their last hurrah.”

The Mountain Lions are playing in a four-team double elimination tournament that begins Friday in Douglas, Ga. Middle Georgia College, Georgia Perimeter College and Truett-McConnell College are the other teams vying for the spot in the district tournament.

“We are also in the middle of exams right now, so my kids are having to be very academically oriented,” Robinson said. “There are just a lot of distractions. For example, I
had two kids come into my office this morning and said they had talked to scouts who were asking how much it would take for them to sign. All of a sudden I have kids thinking about how much it’ll take for them to sign rather than being focused on Middle Georgia.”

Robinson said his job now becomes attempting to coach the players to the mindset of trying to be the best junior college baseball player they can be before moving on. 

The reason the Young Harris coach is so passionate is because this is one of the best teams he has had in 11 years as the Mountain Lions’ coach.

Offensively, Young Harris has been off the charts. The Mountain Lions have scored more than 650 runs on 729 hits. The team has also belted 84 home runs this season.

“I never get to brag on my offense much because we are usually known for our pitching,” Robinson said. “This team is as talented as we have ever had.”

If the Mountain Lions advance out of the Region 17 tournament they’ll face the Region 7 champion in a best-of-three series. Young Harris has made it that far five times under
Robinson, but has only advanced to the World Series once in 2007. One big reason has been Walters State College in Morristown, Tenn. The Senators have defeated Young Harris four times in the East Central Championship.

Walters State finished No. 5 in the NJCAA poll.

“They’ve been our nemesis,” Robinson said. “Tennessee is such a tough region. Even if you have two of the best teams in the nation, only one can go.”


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