The men’s baseball team throws their first pitch of the season on Feb. 10 in Tennessee, with all the players working towards a Junior College World Series run.
Head coach Kent Shelley is confident in his team’s leadership and experience this season and hopes that his team will stay healthy throughout the long season after dealing with a few injuries in the fall.
“I like where we’re at in terms of the team, but I’m concerned about staying healthy over the course of a 56 plus game season, but I like our leadership, I like our team and I like the way they go about their business on the field and off, so it should be a fun year,” Shelley said.
After finishing last season third in the conference, Shelley is proud of the team’s offseason dedication and commitment.
“The team has been working year-round and they’ve shown a tremendous work ethic both on the field and in the weight room and I’m very pleased with their progress,” Shelley said.
Strong pitching, batting and athleticism are what Shelley is looking forward to this season.
“I like our experience because we’re basically returning our pitchers from last year that led the conference in ERA and team strikeouts, so we’ve got some very strong arms on the mound,” Shelley said. “We have players in our batting lineup that understand their role as a hitter and our athleticism is going to allow us to make some highlight reel plays.”
Off the field, the student-athletes on the baseball team have found success, with 26 of the 31 players being honored on Academic Honors Night by earning a minimum 3.0 GPA.
“Not only are these players getting it accomplished on the field, they once again have gotten it accomplished in the classroom,” Shelley said.
Current player and Xavier commit, Matt Warkentin, said that the coaches expect the same dedication in the classroom as they do on the field.
“Our coaching staff really prides academics in our program, it’s called a student-athlete for a reason,” Warkentin said. “We’re expected to give 100 percent in the classroom because we’re going to give 100 percent on the field.”
Warkentin transferred to the college after talking with players about the strong program and hearing great things about the head coach.
“Coach Shelley is awesome; he’s a great coach on the field and he’s like a dad off the field, we can go to him for anything,” Warkentin said. “He’s easy to talk to and just a good guy that has been in the game of baseball for a long time.”
Outfielder Maurice Bruce has the expectation for his team to make it to the College World Series held in Colorado.
“I expect us to go further than we did last year; we lost in regionals to get to the College World Series and if we stay bonded and have positive energy, good things will happen for us,” Bruce said.
Second year pitcher Tyler LaPlante prides himself in his focus and competitive edge.
“I think I bring an intensity and competitiveness that any time I’m on the pitching mound I’m out there trying to win,” LaPlante said. “I could care less about my stats as long as the team is winning.”
Although LaPlante is a team player, his impressive statistics grabbed the attention of a Division I coach.
“Next season I’ll be playing at the University of Missouri, so I’m looking forward to that, but I’m more looking forward to this season and getting the job done for Johnson County,” LaPlante said. “One more year playing here and I’m going to make the most of it.”
View the team’s schedule, standings and news at http://www.jccc.edu/cavs/mens-sports/baseball/