Great expectations for the Cavaliers

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By James Howey


jhowey@jccc.edu


2014 was arguably the most successful season ever for the college’s baseball team. The squad recorded their first 50-win season and played in the NJCAA World Series for only the second time in the program’s history. The Cavs opened up the season ranked 7th in the nation and were the consensus pick to win the Jayhawk conference.

“Preseason polls mean absolutely nothing,” head coach Kent Shelley said. “Those preseason polls just simply say there are people out there in the baseball world that think we have a chance to be a pretty good club.”

Shelley says this year is just like any other for this Cavs program that is a traditional power.

“Our expectations are always for conference championships, go to the Junior College World Series and compete for a national championship,” Shelley said. “This year is not different from any other year, because that’s just what we’ve come to expect in this program.”

The squad will greatly benefit from being able to bring back a massive amount of experience from last year’s impressive campaign.

“We have a lot of good players at every position,” shortstop L.J. Hatch said. “We have backups that could start at any other team in the conference.”

One aspect the Cavs do lack a little experience is in frontline pitching. The Cavs lost most of their best pitching with the departure of last year’s sophomore class. Justin Wyant is the lone frontline starter. Look for returners Derek Hurt, Dalton Gulick and Jacob Patzner to be key in pitching roles. The Cavs do have plenty of arms coming back in the bullpen, which is always critical through the season. The Cavs will also use Hatch in the closer position.

“We feel extremely confident with our weekend conference starters, and I feel very comfortable with the depth of our bullpen,” Shelley said. “If we stay healthy there, we certainly have the ability to be very competitive this year.”

The Cavaliers saw a record 17 sophomores sign to schools, and 12 of those signed to Division I schools.
“It’s absolutely off-the-charts the talent we have in this sophomore class,” Shelley said. “They’ve done a great job on the class, the baseball field and now they are reaping the rewards from that hard work.”

The Cavs head coach does see the potential for this team to do special things this year and be what many have hyped them up to be.

“I think at some point in time this year, we will develop into a very strong and competitive club that will have an opportunity to defend our championships,” Shelley said. “We must continue to work very hard, concentrate on the task at hand, make sure when we leave the ballpark every day, we’re better players. But most importantly, we’re a better club. “

Even with all the anticipation for this season, the Cavs are just focused on playing hard and staying on the task at hand of winning one day at a time.

“We just try to have fun every day,” Hatch said. “We know we have a big target on our backs and everyone wants to beat us, but we just stay focused on winning every inning.”
 

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