Junior College Top 50 Teams (updated 2/28)
Flying High With Perfect 17-0 Mark
over a 26-27 team with only one returning starter, new Louisburg
(N.C.) College coach Mike McGuire knew it would be a formidable
challenge to turn around a once-storied junior-college program in
McGuire, a former assistant head coach at Winthrop, was hardly
daunted by the task at hand and has led his team to a sparkling 17-0
record to begin the 2012 season. The Hurricanes were ranked No. 38 in
Perfect Game’s pre-season ranking of the nation’s Top 50 Junior
College teams, but have jumped all the way to No. 5 in PG’s first
in-season ranking with their fast start.
got the job in June, hired a staff and we hit the ground running,”
McGuire said. “We went about recruiting like we had no players
coming back. We just tried to sign as many quality baseball players
as we could find, with an emphasis on arms. We also focused on
several transfers still looking for a school.”
payoff was 32 newcomers on this year’s club, including nine with
NCAA Division I experience. Three of the D-I transfers—ex-Rutgers
shortstop Steve Nyisztor, ex-South Carolina second baseman Jake
Watson and ex-North Carolina righthander Tim Brechbuehler—came in
at the Christmas break, and have been difference-makers in
Louisburg’s fast start.
is hitting .400 and leads the team in homers (4), RBIs (19) and
stolen bases (8), while the 6-foot-8 Brechbuehler shares the team
lead in wins (3) and is tops in strikeouts (22). Watson (.280-1-11)
has been steady in all phases.
addition to that trio, Louisburg has gotten significant mileage from
hard-hitting first baseman Chris King (.420-2-19), a Coastal Carolina
transfer who was forced to red-shirt in 2011 while recovering from
shoulder surgery; and three freshmen pitchers, righthanders Josh
Roeder (2-0, 1.04, 4 SV) and Cody Johnson (3-0, 0.57), and lefthander
Tony Urban (3-0, 0.43). Urban, a New Jersey recruit, tossed a
7-inning no-hitter against Lackawanna (Pa.) JC for his first career
thought we’d be good, based on how well we played in the fall,”
McGuire said, “but with the players we got after Christmas, that
put us over the hump. We became a team with a chance to really
compete right away.”
Hurricanes biggest catch was Nyisztor, who projected as a possible
future first-round pick off his play as a freshman in 2010 at Rutgers
and that summer as the top prospect in the Northwoods League.
Nyisztor’s star faded badly a year ago when he left the Rutgers
program early in the season for reasons that went unexplained
publicly and later tried to resume his career in summer ball with
brief and unsuccessful stints in the Cape Cod and Northwoods Leagues.
Those who saw him play were unimpressed, and openly questioned his
attitude and commitment to the game.
returned to Rutgers last fall, intent on picking up the pieces, but
didn’t take part in regular team activities and when it was
determined that he would be academically ineligible for the 2012
season, he looked for a place to transfer and conveniently landed at
Louisburg. Not only has Nyisztor shown flashes of his old form on the
field, but McGuire says he is dealing effectively with a personal
issue that undermined his performance and approach a year ago.
been solid in all phases of his game, and getting better every day,”
McGuire said. “He was just trying to get his feet under him at the
start, and may still not be in mid-season form, but all the tools are
there. He has excellent speed, and while he has been knocking in runs
all along, he is just starting to drive balls over the wall with more
consistency. Admittedly, he has struggled in the field (12 errors in
14 games), but most of his errors stem from his inactivity and
getting into bad habits with his throwing motion and footwork. But he
has all the actions you look for in a shortstop.
his attitude has not been an issue. He’s very serious about his
career and his work habits have been exemplary. He’s been a model
of his checkered background, McGuire acknowledges that Nyisztor will
need to be forthcoming with scouts in the weeks leading up to this
year’s draft about the reasons why his once-promising career went
astray a year ago. McGuire also admits that teams may be reluctant to
invest an early-round draft pick on Nyisztor, but McGuire says his
undisclosed personal issues are in the past and haven’t hampered
his current performance.
have been a lot of rumors out there about his situation,” McGuire
said, “but I don’t think things are as bad as they’ve been made
out to be. He’s been a pleasure to coach, he loves being at the
ball park and he’s displayed exemplary work habits.”
lone returning player with any tangible experience was infielder Zach
Houchins, an unsigned 15th-round pick of the Washington
Nationals in last year’s draft. Houchins played shortstop for the
Hurricanes in 2011 and spent most of fall practice at the position,
but was quickly shifted to third this season to accommodate the
was the centerpiece to build around,” McGuire said, “and he’s
been fine with the move to third. He projects as a third baseman at
the next level anyway, whether at East Carolina or in pro ball, and
he recognizes he doesn’t have the footwork or the lateral quickness
that Steve has at shortstop.”
McGuire’s club is off to a faster start that even he imagined, he
knows he still has his work cut out for him to live up to the
school’s long-standing reputation as a baseball power—even as the
program struggled on the field in recent years, leading to the
departure of John Thomas as coach last season after three years on
Hall of Fame coach Russ Frazier guided the Louisburg program for 41
years from 1959-99, compiling a 1,034-390 record while leading the
Hurricanes to nine appearances in the Junior College World Series.
His successor, Billy Godwin, led the school to a record 51 wins in
2002 and its last World Series appearance before leaving to take over
the head coaching job at East Carolina in 2005.
Hurricanes have enjoyed little tangible success since the departure
of Frazier and Godwin, but McGuire had designs on restoring the
program to its past glory from the moment he was hired last June.
program has a lot of history, and I always thought this was an ideal
place where we could win, and compete for a national championship,”
McGuire said. “We plan to return Louisburg to a position of
prominence on the landscape of junior-college baseball.”
County Remains Unbeaten
Louisburg’s perfect 17-0 mark, Kansas’ Neosho County JC is the
nation’s other most-prominent junior-college team that has
assembled a perfect record to date. The Panthers are 12-0, but
climbed only marginally in the rankings, from No. 33 to 25, because
of an all non-Division I schedule, though they did whip NJCAA D-II
traditional power Des Moines Area CC in four straight games to open
first baseman/righthander Adam Giacalone, who hit .396-18-102 and
went 10-1, 2.10 as a freshman, continues to be one of the most
indispensable players in the JC ranks. He again leads the Panthers
with a .483 average and 14 RBIs, while also going 2-0, 1.27 with 15
strikeouts in 11 innings. But Nebraska-bound lefthander Matt Strahm
is considered the top prospect for this year’s draft in the Kansas
6-foot-3, 170-pound Strahm has two dominant pitches in his 92-mph
fastball and hard slider, along with a solid-average change, and is
2-0, 0.00 through his first two starts. In 14 innings, he has walked
four and struck out 23.
26 Eastern Oklahoma State has won just eight of its first 12 games,
but no junior-college team around may have the depth of power arms
that the Mountaineers have.
righthanders Logan Taylor, a transfer from Arkansas at the Christmas
break, and Mason Justice, a 21st-round pick out of high
school, both have been clocked at 94 mph this spring, while Blake
Logan, another sophomore righthander, and Dalton Bell and Koda
Glover, both freshmen righthanders and products of Oklahoma high
schools, have clocked in at 92. Two other arms on the Eastern staff
have peaked at 90.
Wichita State-bound Logan (3-1, 0.47, 19 IP, 24 SO) and Taylor (1-0,
0.00, 1 SV, 14 IP, 18 SO) have been the team’s most-dominant arms
Mountaineers expected to have another significant power arm on its
staff this season in righthander Jonathan Gray, a 10th-round
pick of the New York Yankees in last year’s draft, but he
transferred to Oklahoma for his sophomore season. Gray’s fastball
has reached 96-97 mph.
vu For Orange Coast
No.-2 ranked Orange Coast College ran off 14 straight wins a year
ago, before finally losing its first game of the season to the
College of the Canyons. In a nearly-identical scenario, Orange Coast
was unbeaten in its first 14 games this season at 13-0-1 before
dropping its first game again to the same College of the Canyons
Pirates were dominated by Canyons righthander Cory Jones, a 6-foot-4,
200-pound sophomore who allowed a walk and two infield singles while
striking out 10 in eight innings in a 4-1 win. Jones improved to 3-0,
1.17 on the season with 28 strikeouts in 23 innings, and dominated
Orange Coast with a 93-95 mph fastball.
being stymied by Jones, Orange Coast was sailing along behind the hot
hitting of its three outfielders, freshmen Boog Powell (.542-0-8, 7
SB) and Bijan Rademacher (.314-2-13), and sophomore Chris Carlson
(.396-1-19). Powell leads the powerful Orange Empire Conference in
hitting, while the New Mexico State-bound Carlson is tops in RBIs.
Rademacher, the team leader in homers, is a Cal State Fullerton
addition to its potent offense, Orange Coast has gotten big seasons
from its top two starters, New Mexico State-bound righthander Keegan
Yuhl (4-0, 1.14), a UC Irvine transfer, and Houston-bound righthander
Brandon Brennan (4-0, 0.32). Brennan, a transfer from Oregon and a
potential early-round draft in June, has been clocked consistently in
the mid-90s this spring.
Coast has enjoyed significant success this season, despite the
absence of potentially its best talent, catcher/third baseman Stefan
Sabol, a transfer from Oregon who was expected to hit third in the
Pioneers order. Sabol, an Oklahoma State signee, broke the hamate
bone in his hand just prior to the season and was finally clearly to
play again Monday.
Polk State is off to a hot start at 16-4, thanks largely to the
efforts of sophomore RHP Alec Asher, who is 4-0 and hasn’t
allowed an earned run in his first 33 innings while striking out 39.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Asher, whose fastball has touched 96 mph, was
a 23rd-round draft pick of the Giants in 2010 and is
committed to Division II Tampa.
Yavapai College started the season at 0-4, but had rebounded to 9-7
behind freshman RHP Matt Smith, who shut out GateWay, Glendale
and Central Arizona in three consecutive starts.
Beach State has gone 16-5 this season, mainly on the strength of one
of the best arms in the Florida JC ranks, Florida Atlantic-bound
sophomore RHP Brandon Welch (2-1, 1.99).
its mediocre 11-10 start, Chipola JC has gotten a solid effort from
Florida State-bound RHP Robbie Coles (2-0, 0.75, 24 IP/22 SO),
who has a solid 3-pitch mix with a fastball that reaches 92.
6-ranked Santa Fe has become the top JC team in Florida, mainly
because of the efforts of 6-foot-5 LHP Ryan Yarbrough (4-0, 30
IP, 3 BB/30 SO), whose success stems primarily from his exceptional
ability to throw a changeup.
Georgia freshman RHP J.B. Wendelken has a 0.00 ERA with 22
strikeouts in 11 innings, largely on the strength of a 95-mph
Nevada has two potential Top 10 draft picks in sophomore RHP Dylan
Baker (3-0, 0.68), a product of an Alaska high school by way of
Tacoma (Wash.) CC, and RHP Tyler Spencer (3-1, 1.53), an
Oregon prep product. Baker’s fastball has been a steady 92-95,
Tyler Smith, a Tennessee-bound RHP with a 95-mph fastball, is
3-0, 1.00 with 24 K’s in 18 innings this season for No. 14 USC
not being one of the 3-4 best arms on the staff for No. 3 Walters
State, sophomore LHP England Smith is 3-0, 0.00 with 20 K’s
in 19 IPs.
Eric Brooks, a transfer from Houston and the top-ranked JC
prospect in Texas, is 5-0, 0.74 with 31 strikeouts in 24 innings for
red-hot McLennan (16-2), the nation’s No. 7 team. The 6-2, 195
Brooks has topped out at 96.