5/18/2006 4:00:00 AM 5 things the
Roughriders must do to reach the JUCO World Series
By DOUG COOK The Daily Courier
Thirteen years have expired since the Yavapai College baseball team qualified for the NJCAA Division I College World Series. In 1993 the Roughriders' program won its third national title on the strength of ace pitcher Bob Howry.
Yavapai has not made it back to the promised land yet, proving just how difficult it is ‹ even for a top-notch junior college program ‹ to win at the regional and district levels and have a shot at the pot of gold perched toward one end of the rainbow.
Today through Saturday, the 2006 Division I, Region I champion Roughriders will play in the round-robin, double-elimination Western District Tournament in St. George, Utah, in hopes of qualifying for Nationals.
So, what will it take for Yavapai to win the District tournament and move on? Here are the five things that the Roughriders must do to punch a ticket to the College World Series.
Don't Lose Focus
The Riders appeared nervous and unsure of themselves in Game 2 of the Region I semifinals after a lopsided 15-3 loss to Chandler-Gilbert.
Don't mind the metal
Yavapai will switch over from the wooden bats it used all season to the alternate feel of aluminum for the District tournament. If the Riders adjust favorably, they may find themselves in a couple slugfests.
Get Loo on the field
NJCAA pre-season All-American third baseman Milton Loo, who missed Yavapai's Region I championship series, must come out ready ‹ and all indications are that he will. Loo, an All-ACCAC first-team pick who's struggled with injury problems the past two seasons, is an RBI machine. This spring, he hit .354 with a team-high 57 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. Yavapai desperately needs Loo's speed and quickness on the base paths and at the hot corner.
Go deep in the rotation
The Roughriders' Nos. 2 and 3 starters, Joey Rosas (8-1, 2.70 ERA through May 8) and Cam Wheeler (4-2, 2.49), must pitch deep into their tournament games if Yavapai is to survive against Dixie and Lamar ‹ two clubs that own solid starting staffs. Rosas looked sharp in his last game May 12. He picked up the victory in Game 2 of the Pima series as the Riders shut out the Aztecs 5-0. If both pitchers keep their pitch counts low and don't issue many walks, Yavapai should have a shot.
Get Murph 'back' ASAP
J.R. Murphy, Yavapai's No. 1 starting pitcher, has to overcome an injured back and start at least one game of the tournament. Before Game 1 of the Region I championship series against Pima last Thursday, Murphy tweaked his back warming up in the bullpen. He hurled 6 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs, one earned, on eight hits in YC's 6-4 win. Since then, Murphy has had back spasms and is listed as day-to-day. On Monday, Murphy (9-1 record, 1.58 ERA, 91 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings this season) tossed only five pitches in the bullpen before complaining of pain. Yavapai coach Sky Smeltzer said Murphy's "50-50" and not sure if he'll pitch, calling it "a game-time decision."