NJCAA TV LINKS
WNCC baseball team set to open season at home on Sunday
February 8, 2012WESTERN NEBRASKA COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team enters this season with high expectations as they prepare for their season opener Sunday, Feb. 12 at home against Colorado State University Club team.
The Cougars, who finished last season with a 24-36 record before falling in the first round of the regional playoffs to Lamar Community College, is entering this season in good shape after taking advantage of the mild winter.
WNCC coach Mike Jones, who is entering his 11th season as the head coach, said they have accomplished plenty the past month, spending much of the time outdoors.
“So far we are looking OK. We are ahead of the game right now because of the mild winter that we have had,” he said. “We have been outside a lot and have worked on a bunch of situational stuff in practice. In the past, we had to simulate those in the gym. We have a group of guys that are separating themselves and starting to be the frontline guys for playing time.”
The Cougars will play their first six games at home, beginning with Sunday’s home contest which will be a doubleheader beginning at noon at Cleveland Field. WNCC will then host Williston State College in doubleheaders on on Feb. 18-19.
Jones said the focus of the early games is to get a lot of the young pitchers some innings.
“The focus of these early games will be getting our freshmen pitchers out there in a game situation,” he said. “We are just going to allow them to get a feel of what it will be like out there. You try and try in practices and scrimmages to get them that feeling, but they don’t really know what it feels like to pitch in a game until they get out there. I would like to get all the freshmen out there as soon as possible.”
Pitching seems to be the area that Jones is worried about the most. The Cougars return five pitchers from a year ago and have nine freshmen throwers on the team. Jones said there are some sophomores that are stepping up right now.
“We are still working on the pitching staff,” Jones said. “The pitching staff right know has seen Jeff Schmidt and Terry McNabb step up. Also, Trevor Kreisel has been coming around lately. As for the freshmen, it is so inconsistent. We are looking for some kind of consistency in our freshmen pitching.
“We have a lot of youth on the pitching staff and we are hoping the sophomores can carry us for a little while, especially early in the season. We are not going to wear out the sophomores arms, but we will need to get some good innings out of those guys early so if the freshmen make mistakes it won’t kill us.”
Besides McNabb, Schmitt and Kreisel, other sophomores on the pitching rotation include Zak Porter and Dalton Goings. The freshmen throwers include Challis Wright of Aurora, Colo., Pablo Garcia of Orlando, Fla., Chris Nadon of Cheyenne, Wyo., Brett McPhail of Aurora, Colo., Gianfranco Bernal and Nick Hernandez of Miami, Richard Hernandez of Holly, Colo., and Klinton Brown of Valentine.
While Jones is still looking for identity in the pitching staff, that is not so for the position players. Jones said there are several sophomores that are stepping up.
“The sophomores are really stepping up so far this year,” he said. “I think they understand a little more of what is coming up. They are really stepping up in practices right know.”
Some of the sophomores to watch include Max Brennan, who Jones said is really stepping up at shortstop as well as a defensive and offensive player.
Others to watch include Jake Vore at first base, Benly Ramos as an offensive player, while Josh Bride is separating himself from the rest of the catchers. The other sophomore player that is battling for an outfield spot is former WESTCO Zephyr Tre Meyer. Meyer played last season at Colby Community College before transferring to WNCC this year.
One freshman position player to watch is Jose Gonzalez, who Jones said is establishing himself at third base and starting to win that spot easily. And, right now in the outfield, it is competitive. Jones also said there is battle for the outfield positions.
The rest of the freshmen include Andy Padron of Homestead, Fla., Grant Rimingtin of Gering, Zach Ostergard of North Platte, Kalvin Gonzalez of Orlando, Fla., Ernesto Punales of Haleah, Fla., Greg Spurgin of Longmont, Colo., Tyler Wiens of Ft. Collins, Colo., Cal Harris of Berthoud, Colo., Keeton Krause of Loveland, Colo., Aaron Torres of Englewood, Colo., Oscar Faimillia of Highlands Ranch, Colo., Nick Vanthillo of Belgium, and Justin Smith of Valentine.
Jones said this year’s team seems to be more consistent on offense. This year’s team, he said, won’t be a power hitting team, but one that finds the gap. Last season, the Cougars hit just 11 home runs and seven triples while finishing with a .259 batting average.
“i hope we are a good offensive team. We really struggled to score runs a year ago,” he said. “In the past we have had some really explosive offenses. I don’t know if this offense will be a powerful offense but I do think it will be a consistent offense. I really do think we will get production all the way through the lineup.”
The player’s excitement for the season is due to how the Cougars’ finished last season as they lost to Lamar Community College. It necessarily wasn’t the fact they lost, but how they fought back falling 16-14 in the second game of the Region IX playoffs after trailing by as much as six runs during the game.
“I think it [the way the team played at regionals last year] has given some confidence to the guys that returned,” he said. “I mean, even the guys that didn’t get a chance to play in those games but were a witness to it, they really feel there is some direction to what we want to get accomplished. There awareness of the details is so much better.”
WNCC Baseball Schedule
12 – Colorado State Club; 18-19 – Williston State College; 24-26 -- @ Barton Community College.
1 – Colorado State Club; 3 – Trinidad State Junior College, 4 – University of Colorado Club, 7 -- @ Colorado State Club, 9-10 – @ Lamar Community College, 11 – @ Otero Junior College; 14-17 -- @ South Mountain Tournament; 20 – U. of Northern Colorado Club; 21 – Luna Community College; 24 -25 – McCook Community College; 31 -- @ Trinidad State Junior College.
1 -- @ Trinidad State Junior College; 2 -- @ Luna Community College; 6-7 -- @ Northeastern Junior College; 10 -- @ Colby Community College; 11 -- @ McCook Community College; 14-15 – Otero Junior College; 18 – Northeastern Junior College; 19 -- @ Colorado State Club; 21-22 – Lamar Community College; 25 -- @ McCook Community College