College publication makes prediction
Western Nevada College has been tabbed the 10th best junior college baseball team in the country in a pre-season ranking by Collegiate Baseball, the most widely respected publication for two-year and four-year baseball programs.
"This makes the fifth time in five years, the entire history of our program, where the Wildcats have been nationally ranked in the country's top 20 teams at some point in the season," Coach DJ Whittemore said.
"Just looking at the other teams that are ranked in the poll, both ahead of us and behind, is really flattering. They are some of the top programs in the history of junior college baseball with programs dating back more than 60 years. These other colleges count major league hall-of-famers as their alumni."
Western has experience against several of the top ranked teams, having beaten Middle Georgia, Shelton State and Iowa Western to reach third place in the Junior College World Series in 2009. Western also finished ahead of the College of Southern Nevada, ranked #4 in this year's poll, in the Scenic West Athletic Conference championship. Howard College of Texas, which won the 2009 JUCO World Series, is ranked No. 1.
Whittemore said it is worth noting that only one other state landed two teams in the preseason Top 10 - Texas, which boasts 48 two-year colleges in the NJCAA.
"I think that speaks volumes about the quality of baseball in Nevada, from junior colleges to the high school level, and the youth leagues as well," he said.
Coaching a two-year college program means replacing half the team each year, a daunting task for any coach.
Whittemore said he has confidence in his players, but acknowledged, "We're going to face some giant hurdles as we try to replace the first seven hitters in the lineup. Six of them went to Division I colleges, and we had three pitchers also go to Division I, so that's a big exodus of talent."
Western's schedule will also be a challenge. The college starts its season with 16 straight away games before making its home debut on Friday and Saturday, March 5 and 6, at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City.
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