A year ago, Cowley College breezed through the Region VI baseball playoffs but dropped its first two games and was quickly eliminated from the NJCAA World Series.
This year’s Tigers would like to stick around a little longer.
After a dominating performance in capturing Region VI again last week, Cowley (43-16) is getting another World Series shot starting Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo.
Coach Dave Burroughs will be taking his eighth team to the NJCAA World Series, and he pointed to the experience his team has should help the Tigers’ chances this time around.
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“We’ve got about eight or nine who have been here before,” he said.
Six of those sophomores are in the starting lineup, and a seventh, right-hander Garrett Hutson, will be on the mound against Wallace-Dothan (Ala.), which is the Series’ opening game. The Governors (42-19) are making their first NJCAA Series appearance and are coached by former major-league catcher Mackey Sasser, who is also the school’s athletic director.
It is small consolation that both teams that defeated Cowley last year eventually played for the championship, with Yavapai (Ariz.) beating San Jacinto (Texas) North 5-2. Hutson pitched San Jacinto, but didn’t face Cowley.
No. 6 Cowley’s game is the only one against a team not receiving votes in the NJCAA poll. With matchups determined by geographical region, some highly ranked teams will meet in the first round.
No. 1 Chipola (Fla.) will meet No. 3 Crowder (Mo.); No. 2 Dyersburg State (Tenn.) faces No. 8 San Jacinto North; No. 11 Southern Nevada plays No. 17 Wabash Valley (Ill.); and No. 4 McLennan (Texas) meets Florence-Darlington Tech (S.C.), which is receiving votes.
“This was one of those years where all of the best teams made it,” Burroughs said.
The Tigers clinched their berth with a 17-8 victory over Neosho that only was that close when Neosho struck for four ninth-inning runs.
His team lost its focus toward the end, Burroughs said.
“You’re talking about 19- to 20-year-old kids,” he said. “They were thinking about the dogpile (at the end) rather than baseball in the final innings.”
Burroughs said the 10-day layoff has been mostly used to rest up and get healthy. He said he’s not worried about any rust from the time off. But the nervousness of playing in the Series is another matter.
“Seven other times I’ve brought teams here, and they’ve had (nervousness),” he said. “But they’ll settle in. They just need that first at-bat. You’ve got to get it out of the way.”