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Eagles get day of rest as JUCO World Series kicks off

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
May 24, 2003
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Meridian Community College will be doing something that eight other teams won't be doing during the opening day of the 2003 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The Eagles (38-17) will be resting throughout the first day of the tournament that begins at 9 a.m. today with Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College taking on San Jacinto (Texas) College-North at Suplizio Field.
MCC along with its first opponent, the Walters State (Tenn.) Community College Senators, received a bye on the first day.
The Eagles begin their quest of the program's first national title at 8:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. MDT) Sunday. MCC's late start in the Junior College World Series puts the team in an interesting situation.
By the time the Eagles and the Senators square off on the diamond, two teams will have already been eliminated.
Meridian has drawn that. Its nice because you get to see some games before you actually play. You can get an understanding of what it will be like."
The elimination of two teams before ever stepping onto the field is not a problem for the Eagles.
This year's World Series, as all national title tournaments, is filled with quality opponents.
Leading the list of teams vying for the junior college Division I crown is No. 1-ranked San Jacinto (Texas) College-North.
The Gators (48-11) have held the top spot in the national ranking all year, and the program won five national titles from 1985-1990.
The Gators are the most experienced team at the weeklong tournament.
San Jacinto battled out of the loser's bracket at the tourney last year, after dropping its opening round game, until it finally bowed out in the third-place contest.
The Gators only lost two starters to graduation last year, and they look to make a run at a sixth title.
San Jacinto may be an old hand at the World Series, but three teams are making their first trip to the mountains of Colorado.
Neosho County (Kan.) Community College, Seminole (Fla.) Community College and Community College of Southern Nevada are all making debut appearances in the national title tourney.
The Panthers of Neosha County (42-13) may have had the hardest environmental route of all the teams of all the squads at the series.
The Kansas team didn't win its first district game until 1:38 Sunday morning, and the Panthers finished district play at noon that day.
Neosha County had to wait out three tornado warnings and rainstorms during the district tournament.
The team that got off to a 12-0 start will need to continue to show perseverance, as it enters the program's first World Series appearance.
Seminole has waited 30-plus years to reach the final tournament of the season.
The Raiders (41-19) forged a solid baseball tradition in the "Sun Shine State," but the team struggled to get over the hump and out of the state.
Seminole struggled at the end of its season dropping eight of its final 12 games, but the squad rebounded in its state tournament.
The Raiders came back from a 12-4 deficit in the seventh inning of their second game in the tournament to win 14-12.
The Coyotes (50-9) have only existed for four years, and the team was the first athletic program established at a Nevada junior college.
CCSN brings a 2.51 team ERA to the table, and the squad is hitting at a .334 clip.
Along with being new, the Coyotes also differ from their opponents by coming from a wood-bat league.
The absence of aluminum have kept the squad's home runs down at 22 for the season, but head coach Tim Chambers is not concerned by the deceiving lack of power on his team.
Along with the three rookie teams in Colorado, two other programs have a series appearance connection.
Walters State (Tenn.) Community College and Conners State (Okla.) College are both returning to the series for the first time since 1985.
The Senators (44-11) of Walters State missed the World Series last year when it was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Conners College (46-15) is also looking for redemption from last year in its first trip back in 18 years.
The Grayson County (Texas) College Vikings (52-13) are returning to the World Series for the fourth time in six years.
Grayson County is the biggest masher at the tournament, with seven players notching double-digit home run totals. The Vikings outscored their opponents 617-318.
The lofty offensive numbers more than makes up for the teams inflated 5.27 ERA.
Another familiar face at the series is the Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College Pioneers (49-14).
Spartanburg last came to Colorado in 2001, when it lost to eventual champions North Central Texas and the tourney's runner-up Dixie (Utah) State College.
The Pioneers are a different team from the squad of two years ago. The teams coach said this season's team knows how to close the deal.
Rounding out the field of 10 is the Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College Falcons (37-23).
The Falcons are making their first appearance in the World Series since 1998. Indian Hills return to Colorado has been a long time coming for head coach Cam Walker.
The field is filled with regulars, new faces and returning teams from long layoffs. Which is just how Federico said the bracket looks every year, and the second-year Eagles skipper wouldn't want it any other way.