Juco : : Rankings
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Junior College World Series

Allan Simpson        
The legend of Bryce Harper only continues to grow.

Already an unqualified success in his bold gamble to skirt traditional draft rules and play junior college baseball at age 17, and a lock to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, Harper may have outdone himself over the weekend with his latest on-field exploits.

In the College of Southern Nevada’s Western-District clinching 25-11 win over Central Arizona College, Harper went 6-for-6 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. His other hits were a double and triple.

With the wild win, No. 2-ranked Southern Nevada punched its ticket to the 2010 Junior College World Series, which begins Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., just down the road from his latest Wonderboy-like feat.

Entering the four-team district tournament, played in Lamar, Colo., CSN had played all but one of its previous 59 games with wood, but switched to aluminum in district play to conform with the bat that most of the remaining states in the junior college Division I ranks use, and is used in the national tournament.

Harper took an instant liking to his new hitting tool, along with conditions that were conducive to an offensive onslaught in windswept western Colorado. In four games, he went 15-for-22 with six homers and 21 RBIs.

Had he not homered to dead-center in his final time up in the tournament-clinching game, and instead settled for a mere single, Harper would have hit for the cycle for the second time in two days. In CSN’s second game, a 22-14 win over host Lamar CC, Harper went 6-for-7 with three singles, a double, triple and homer. He also chipped in with six RBIs.

Only once before in CSN baseball history had a player ever hit for the cycle, and Harper nearly did it twice in three games.

Harper’s explosive weekend at the plate pushed his batting average to .442 and his 62-game home-run total to 29. He’ll continue to swing with aluminum at the 10-team Junior College World Series, which historically has had its share of high-scoring games. With the draft just around the corner (June 7-9), Harper will obviously be a big center of attention at an event that routinely attracts upwards of 100,000 fans.

CSN, which began the 2010 season ranked No. 1 in the joint Perfect Game/NJCAA national rankings, opens play against No. 4 Pitt (N.C.) CC. A potential showdown looms later in the tournament with No. 1-ranked San Jacinto (Texas) JC, which is on the opposite side of the bracket and has a difficult opening-draw itself in No. 3-ranked State College of Florida/Manatee.

CSN and San Jac began the 2010 season ranked 1-2, and should the two juco powers eventually meet, it would pit teams with extremely deep and talented pitching staffs. But if last weekend’s Western District championship meant anything, it proved that good hitting (plus aluminum bats, plus windy conditions) can beat good pitching.

And in that context, who knows what next might be in store for Bryce Harper.

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