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Juco  | Story  | 5/10/2023

Road to Grand Junction

South Bid (Region 22)
Contenders: Wallace-Hanceville (36-16), Shelton State (27-27), Snead State (30-23), Wallace-Dothan (37-18), Lawson State (32-19), Northwest Shoals (31-25), Bishop State (31-20)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Wallace-Dothan
This is a team that was ranked inside our preseason top 50 and has lived up to the billing throughout the year. They won the Panama City Classic, an event that featured some of the nation’s top teams and they really shined in all facets. They’ve been consistently at the top of the ACCC and have rattled off six wins in a row ahead of the conference tournament. I’ve got them winning another tournament here and taking the south bid to Grand Junction.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Snead State
Region 22 and the South bid may be the most up for grabs bid to Grand Junction this year. Snead has won 30 games in 2023 but notably are on a 6 game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11 games. It’s a solid lineup that features some power and pure hitters and if the pitching staff throws the baseball like they have recently they have a chance. There’s a lot of contenders in this region and Snead may have caught fire at just the right time.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Wallace-Hanceville
The number 1 seed in the northern section of the conference tournament has an opportunity to make a clean run through to earn a bid to the World Series. They are led by infielders Jacob Fernandez, Dominic Decker, and Mikel Pryor all of which have been tearing the cover off the baseball in 2023. Catcher, Dan Stewart is a crucial piece in the team’s run production with double digit home runs and a team high 52 runs batted in. On the mound, John Allen Stogner holds a 10-1 record with a sub 3 earned run average and a K/9 north of 11. Expect the duo of JT Blackwood and Dylan Rhadans to shoulder much of the load through the postseason as well. Any team with a .340 team batting average and 3 very capable starting pitchers has a chance to do damage in the postseason. 

South Atlantic Bid (Region 8)
Contenders: Central Florida (48-6), Miami-Dade College (33-14-1), Northwest Florida State (32-17-1), State College of Florida (35-24)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Central Florida
With the amount of talent in the state of Florida in the JUCO ranks, this pick wasn’t as easy as most would imagine. All four teams have a chance to make it to Grand Junction, but I’m going to stick with Central Florida to make it to Colorado for the second straight year. They’ve been inside our PGJC Top 10 and held onto the top spot for four weeks. They’re loaded across the board and with this amount of talent on a roster, it’s tough to pick against them.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Miami-Dade
The Sharks played a gauntlet of a schedule in 2023 and will next play in the South Atlantic District Championships. There’s high end talent on this roster both in the lineup and on the pitching staff. Stars that that have a chance to be instant contributors on Power 5 rosters next season. And with the schedule they played this season they’re certainly used to going up against other talented rosters as well. Put it together for a few games and they’ll be headed to Grand Junction.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Northwest Florida 
The Raiders have no easy road to the world series ahead of them but with Kendrey Maduro and Co. They have a real shot to make some hay in the coming days. In addition to Maduro, Blake Cavill and Colby Jones will have to continue to be valuable contributors in the run production department for the Raiders. Ramsey David and Kyson Witherspoon are the two workhorses of the staff, both of which have spun it well in 2023. The pair combined register a record of 11-3 with a K/9 north of 9. If these two arms post the outings they are capable of they could knock off region favorite, College of Central Florida.

West Bid (Region 1, 9, 18)
Contenders: Arizona Western (34-16), College of Southern Idaho (31-17), College of Southern Nevada (40-12), Pima (43-15), Salt Lake (24-16), Southeast Community College (38-15)

Cam McElwaney's Pick:  Pima
This is another tough pick to make with Arizona Western getting hot at the right time and Southern Nevada at the 40-win mark. However, I’m going with Pima to get the West bid to Grand Junction. This is as talented of a roster as you’ll find in the country and they have a ton of high level arms to get them through the tournament. Their offense shouldn’t be slept on either, having one of the most dangerous lineups in the country as well. This is always a tough region to get out of but give me the Aztecs to represent the West.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Pima
Pima won 43 regular season games this year while playing in one of the tougher regions in all of junior college baseball. If there is one thing this years Pima team certainly has, it is a depth of talented arms. Pitching to a 3.66 ERA with over a strikeout per inning as a pitching staff. There’s talented righties and lefties to match up with opponents and keep the team in games. The offense will have to step up collectively but they’ve done enough to win 43 games this season and are now just a few wins away from a trip to the 2023 JUCO World Series.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Arizona Western 
The Matadors deserve some respect on their name after knocking off the defending champion Central Arizona in 3 games this past weekend. Sophomore right-hander Roland Marte has been a workhorse for the club all season long boasting a 3.17 ERA and 11-4 record over 10 starts and 105 innings of work. Jorge Carvajal in 15 starts holds an 11-3 record with a 2.37 ERA while striking out over a batter per inning. Expect the pair to be tough customers against a strong Pima lineup with a Region 1 title on the line. Offensively, they are not a ballclub that’s going to walk into any place and bash the ball out of the yard 4 or 5 times and walk home with a victory, but more of a high average team top to bottom than can put the ball in play and create havoc on the bases. Look for the Matadors to keep it rolling against Pima and beyond. 

South Central Bid (Region 2, 16, 23)
Contenders: Connors State (50-5), Crowder (47-11), Delgado (42-11), Jefferson (MO) (31-20), Eastern Oklahoma State (26-22), Mineral Area (35-20), St. Charles (31-25), Seminole State (OK) (36-19)

Cam McElwaney's Pick:  Connors State
I’m going with Connors State to get the South Central Bid for one reason: offense. Their team batting average is .384 and they have absolutely mashed the entire season, racking up an impressive record of 50-5. They’ve also rattled off 15 consecutive wins heading into the region tournament so they’re clicking on all cylinders at the moment. This is one of the most intimidating lineups in recent memory as they’ve blasted 84 home runs. I believe they’re going to hit their way into a bid to Grand Junction.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Crowder
Crowder has won 47 games this season including 15 wins in a row heading into the region 16 tournament. They are without a doubt a talented team on both sides of the baseball that is playing its best at just the right time. They return several sophomores from last seasons JUCO World Series team and add in some talented freshman that have contributed right away. There’s lineup depth with 9 players hitting over .300 and a combination of starters and relievers push for a bid to Grand Junction once again in 2023.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Jefferson
JeffCo has a tough road ahead to be the team that represents the South Central, but they are not short on talent to pull off the feat. Offensively, Colby Ott, Hesston Gray, and Jack Matousek lead the charge for the Vikings, all of which are batting well over the .300 mark. On the mound, it’s a deep staff that can attack you in a multitude of ways from big physical power arms to creative left-handers that can located. Jacob Roettgen is going to be my “Player to watch”. In a mid-season start against Dyersburg he was lights out, the pitchability stands out with a filthy splitter. He adds an unusual look for teams that like to jump on early count fastballs.  

Midwest Bid (Region 4, 11, 24)
Contenders: Indian Hills (30-19), Iowa Western (36-12), John A. Logan (39-14), Lincoln Trail (32-16), Wabash Valley (46-10)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Wabash Valley
Wabash Valley started off the season a little slow at the Panama City Beach Classic but have really turned it on ever since. They finished the regular season with a 46-10 record and 24-3 conference record. Collectively, they’re hitting the ball very well at the moment and have 15 guys hitting over .300 on the season, including three hitting above the .400 mark. This is another impressive Wabash Valley offense that will propel them to Grand Junction for back to back years.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Iowa Western
The Reivers have had a much more up and down season than they have had in a while. A lot of that could be attributed to new faces around the program and a feeling out process that takes some time. But talent tends to show up in the elements of postseason baseball and the Reivers certainly have talent. The team numbers may not jump off the page like they have in years past but the midwest region has been dominated by the Reivers for so long that the general assumption is to make to Grand Junction, you have to go through Iowa Western. And despite the up and down season I don’t think anyone views them as an easy out either.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Wabash Valley  
This Warriors squad in 2023 is formidable. The rotation is headlined by K-State commit Jacob Frost and Agnel Miranda. The two arms couldn’t be any less alike, Frost is a upper 80’s to low 90’s left hander that has success with pitchability and pinpoint command, Miranda is a mountain of a man that brings power stuff to the table every start. Out the bullpen, Mike Sokol and Louis Phillip Langevine have been really intriguing pieces that separate this pitching staff as one of the nation’s best. At the plate, even from the early fall Nicklas Williams has stood out. The frame and physical skill set are not overwhelming, but he is one of, if not, the most refined JUCO hitters I have seen to date. Batting just a few points shy of .500 for the season, expect him to lead the Warriors to the promised land. All 11 hitters with 80 at bats or more for the Warriors are hitting over the .300 mark for the season. 

Southwest Bid (Region 5)
Contenders: Cisco (35-21), McLennan (38-18), Midland (41-13), New Mexico (43-12), Odessa (34-21), Temple (35-17), Weatherford (46-9)

Cam McElwaney's Pick:  McLennan
This pick made me think for quite a while. The tournament will be played at Weatherford and they’ve been consistently the best team in the conference all year. However, McLennan has the talent to go into their place and win it. They had their inconsistencies throughout the year but have turned it on recently and won five in a row heading into the tournament. Their one of the most talented teams in the country and that gives them a strong chance to get hot and take the Southwest bid.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: New Mexico
New Mexico is both an experienced and talented team with impact returning sophomores and some freshman that have been stars this season. The lineup features some individual stat lines that are among statistical leaders nationally and the pitching staff features similar experience and talent as the lineup. The pitching staff relies more heavily on a smaller group of arms to work multiple innings effectively. And if they can do so the offense should be more than enough to earn them a spot in this seasons JUCO World Series.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Weatherford 
How them Coyotes? The squad ran off 14 straight to end regular season play as they head into the region tournament. Part of what makes formats like this so great is that getting hot at the right time can be such a key factor. This Weatherford ball club came into the preseason as a top 50 ball club with loads of talent on the roster. On the mound, their 2 starters have been nothing short of awesome in 2023. Ryne Rodriguez holds a 9-0 record with a 1.35 ERA while striking out over a batter per inning, Robert Fortenberry is not far behind, holding a 9-1 record with a 2.62 ERA while also striking out over a batter per inning. Robin Villeneuve has lived up to all the hype offensively batting .390 with 23 bombs and 85 runs batted in. Talented University of Texas transfer Jack Arthur raked his way through the 2023 campaign as well batting .370 and eclipsing the 15/15 mark. This is a talented and well coached squad that has a shot to bring home a title. 

Plains Bid (Region 6)
Contenders: Barton (47-8), Butler (36-20), Cloud (35-20), Cowley (33-19), Fort Scott (35-21), Johnson County (49-7)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Johnson County
Johnson County has consistently been a riser in our rankings throughout the year and have gotten as high as #2 in our most recent rankings update. They’re a well-rounded team with a strong offense and pitching staff. They’ve been consistently dominant, finishing the regular season with a 49-7 record but they’ve really taken off recently winning 15 straight. They’re hot and talented which makes them the easy pick to grab the Plains bid.

Blaine Peterson's Pick:Johnson County
The Cavaliers won a program record 49 regular season games this season going 29-3 in conference play. They have been the best team in the Jayhawk Conference from start to finish. There’s talent and a ton of depth on this roster. Every player with at least 50 at-bats this season is hitting over .300 and there’s 14 of them. The pitching staff has collectively pitched to a 3.61 ERA and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings this season as well. There may not be a more complete team in the country than this seasons Johnson County roster.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Cowley 
The Plains region will be a hotly contested battleground for a bid to this year's world series, especially with Johnson County being the buzzsaw they’ve been throughout 2023. The Tigers are a well-rounded club. On the mound, they run arms 5 deep, all registering 35 plus innings throughout regular season play. Left-hander Chance Cox headlines the rotation with a 5-1 record and a 3.34 ERA over 11 starts. Offensively, Ty Hammack has been as good as anyone in junior college baseball batting .398 with 16 homeruns and 66 runs batted in. This may be a narrative pick but just recently coming off a 4-game set in which they got swept by Johnson County we could expect some very inspired baseball from the Tigers in their chase of a National Title.  

Appalachian Bid (Region 7, 17)
Contenders: Andrew (29-21), ABAC (28-28), Dyersburg State (31-19), Gordon State (24-30), South Georgia State (36-19), Southwest Tennessee (41-14), Walters State (48-8)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Walters State
Walters State has been one of the most consistent programs in recent memory and this year is no different. They’re going to face some strong competition with Southwest Tennessee and Dyersburg State and then the winner out of Georgia but I think their talent and pedigree is too much to overcome this year. They’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the country with an elite offense and a strong staff. Walters State making it to Grand Junction has become the norm and I don’t think they stray away from that in 2023.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Walters State
Walters has been a powerhouse in junior college baseball for a while. That certainly has been the case this season as well where they’ve been a top rated program from the start on their way to a 48 win season so far. The offense has been powerful all season hitting 110 home runs through 56 games and the pitching staff is plenty talented enough to keep them in games. They came close to playing for a National Championship last season and there’s no reason they can’t do the same in 2023.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Southwest Tennessee 
This veteran Saluqis squad is the dark horse for the bid to Grand Junction. A couple reasons why I think they can pull it off and make some noise once they get there. 1. Experience. The club is led by quite a few returners that have played more collegiate baseball than most both on the mound and at the plate. 2. Pitching. Colton Brumley was just recently named the pitcher of the year for the conference and Markell Dixon has impressed me with truly electric stuff at times this season. 3. Depth top to bottom. Tuane Cope is an asset near at the top of the lineup as is Anthony Zarlingo. Tyler Harrington is likely the region’s best JUCO bat and Brady Holloway has the power to flip any game with one swing. Head Coach Erik Schoenrock has a real chance to send Southwest to Grand Junction for the first time in his tenure. 

East Bid (Region 10, 15, 20)
Contenders: Florence-Darlington Tech (48-11), Gaston (44-9), Harford (34-16-1), Potomac State (30-16)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Florence-Darlington Tech
Florence-Darlington has consistently been near the top of our rankings since our first update of the season and coming in at #3 in our latest update. They've had a few losses in the past week but are still the favorites heading into the district championship. They sport on of the nation's best offenses, having a team batting average over .340 and have slugged 55 homers this year so far. I think the talent wins out with FloDar and have them making it back to Grand Junction after missing out on the action a season ago. 

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Gaston
Gaston has won 44 games so far in 2023 and slugged 58 home runs in the process. There’s some dynamic players in their lineup that can create instant offense and create runs. And the pitching staff has been impressive as well pitching to a 3.92 ERA with a number of guys that can miss bats collecting 445 strikeouts across 374 innings as a team. There’s more than enough talent on this roster to make it to the JUCO World Series in 2023.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Harford 
Coming into the season this was a ball club I thought had Grand Junction potential after talking to head coach Josh Houser. Middle infielder Trey Cruz is a difference maker at the plate and has swung it well of late. The emergence of freshman outfielder Joey Pagano could loom large in their pursuit of a national championship. Quinn Madden and Robert Buckley have been vital in their run through the region thus far and will be crucial pieces going forward. On the mound, Doug Marose and Quinn Holt draw a majority of the starts and will be relied upon to shoulder much of the load in the final weeks. 

Mid-South Bid (Region 14)
Contenders: Blinn (42-13), Paris (41-18)

Cam McElwaney's Pick: Paris
This one was really a toss-up for me with both teams being as talented as they are. With that said, I have Paris grabbing the Mid-South bid and heading to Colorado. They’ve been as consistent as it gets at the plate and on the mound. They’re getting hot at the right time with six straight w’s heading into the regional final. This will be a clash of two of the best teams in the country but I give Paris the slight edge due to their offense.

Blaine Peterson's Pick: Paris
The Dragons have had a nice season collecting 41 wins so far in 2023 and currently on a six-game winning streak. There’s lineup depth with nine guys hitting over .300 and a blend of pop and speed in the lineup to create runs. The pitching staff has a depth of arms that has thrown the ball well all season and can compete with other top teams on the mound. And as a team they seem to be heating up at just the right time to punch their ticket to Grand Junction.

Troy Sutherland's Pick: Blinn 
The Buccaneers currently boast a 42-13 overall record and are riding an 8-game win streak into their regional final matchup with Paris. They have consistently been inside our top 25 all year long and with the squad playing some of their best baseball all year, I don’t see it stopping here. Infielder Tanner Reaves has been a key run producer for the club in 2023 leading the team in BA (.423), RBI (70), and home runs (15). Fellow freshmen, Brandon Bishop ad Marshall Lipsey have also been significant sources of offensive output. Look for this dynamic trio to make their mark in the regional finally and potentially in Grand Junction.