San Jac heads to World Series
05.23.2016 | By Rob Vanya
Team considers Grand Junction its ‘home away from home’
Grand Junction, Colorado, home of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series (aka JUCO World Series), is sometimes called San Jacinto College’s “home away from home” by fans of the College’s baseball team.
Perhaps San Jac can rightfully call “The Junction” its second home more than any other junior college. San Jac has won five national titles, has appeared in 13 national championship games, and – with the recent winning of the 2016 Region XIV Tournament – has qualified for the JUCO World Series 24 times, all of which are national records.
With this year’s regional tournament title, San Jac Head Coach Tom Arrington has guided the team to the JUCO World Series 11 times, and the team has finished as national runner-up five times in his 15-year tenure.
San Jac has its work cut out for it at this year’s World Series, to be played May 28 through June 4 at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. In the opening round, San Jac will face Cowley College (Arkansas City, Kansas) on Sunday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m. (MST). Arrington said the first-round game against Cowley could be the most important one in the tournament. “Cowley has a lengthy tradition of excellence, and has played at the JUCO World Series many times,” he said. “Statistically this year their team is very similar to our team, so it will be a very evenly matched game. We will do our best to be prepared to compete against a very tough opponent.”
San Jac (48-10 overall, 31-9 conference) is the nation’s top-ranked junior college team by Perfect Game and is ranked No. 2 in the nation by the NJCAA. Although not nationally ranked, Cowley (44-16 overall, 25-11 conference) nevertheless emerged as winner of a very competitive Region 6 tournament, and did so with impressive season stats.
Arrington’s statement about the two teams being statistically similar is a fair assessment. San Jac’s top three pitchers (Colten Schmidt, Devin Smeltzer, and Montana Parsons) have a combined record of 24-8 and their individual ERAs are 1.45, 1.29, and 1.58 respectively. The top three pitchers for Cowley (Carson LaRue, Tucker White, and Scott Engler) have a combined record of 27-3 and their individual ERAs are 2.01, 2.73, and 3.0. The team ERA for San Jac is 1.67, the lowest in the nation. The team ERA for Cowley is 5.17. So, regarding pitching, San Jac might have a slight advantage based on ERA.
However, Cowley might have a slight edge offensively. The batting averages and total home runs of each team’s top three hitters are very close to being the same. But, the RBI stats for Cowley’s top three hitters (180) are considerably better than San Jac’s top three hitters (126). Both teams are well-coached and have plenty of depth on offense, defense, and pitching, so the opening round game between two powerhouse teams with lengthy traditions of excellence could, as Arrington says, very well be most important match of the tournament.
The stage for their match, the JUCO World Series has grown in popularity and now ranks as one of the premiere national collegiate sporting events. The national office of the NJCAA – the governing body of two-year college athletics – recently announced that the national title games of the 2016 NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series will be broadcast live in high definition on computers and mobile devices on MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball. Through the partnership with MLBAM, MLB.com will produce and air the live broadcast of the tournament’s championship game on June 3 and June 4 (if necessary). In the booth for MLB.com will be MLB Network’s Scott Braun and four-time World Series champion Jeff Nelson. In addition, Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster Daron Sutton will provide in-depth interviews of players, coaches and tournament representatives.
“The NJCAA has a great, long-standing partnership with Major League Baseball and the addition of having the organization’s premier baseball championship airing live on MLB.com only exemplifies that relationship,” commented NJCAA Executive Director Mary Ellen Leicht. “The additional exposure and attention our student-athletes and member colleges will receive as part of this opportunity is very exciting and valuable. On behalf of the NJCAA Board of Directors and member colleges, I want to thank Commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff for their support of the NJCAA.”
The JUCO World Series has a storied history of featuring future MLB talent. Since 1985, more than 70 players that participated in the tournament have played for MLB teams, including 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper (Southern Nevada – 2010), Cy Young Award winners Eric Gagne (Seminole State, Okla. – 1995) and Cliff Lee (Meridian, Miss. – 1998) in addition to two-time World Series champions Brandon Belt (San Jacinto College – 2007) and John Lackey (Grayson County, Texas – 1999).
Along with the live MLB.com broadcasts of the national title games of this year’s JUCO World Series, live video broadcasts of all games beginning May 28 to June 2 will be available on NJCAA TV (www.njcaatv.com) – the official digital video network of the NJCAA.
The JUCO World Series schedule of games, tournament bracket, seeding information, etc. is available at the JUCO website, jucogj.org
For more information about San Jacinto College baseball, visit sanjacsports.com.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.