Eagles anxious to take on Walters State
By By Tony Krausz
assistant sports editor
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Meridian Community College will finally get to suit up for a baseball game today.
The Eagles (38-17) begin their quest for the program's first national title in their sixth appearance at the Junior College World Series against Walters State (Tenn.) Community College (44-11) at 8:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. MDT).
It is a game a long time in the making for the team from the Queen City.
MCC arrived at the site of the 46th annual JuCo World Series last Wednesday, and the team has been chomping at the bit to return to action.
"You can kind of see it, they are tired of loading that bus to do the civic things we are doing right now," said MCC head baseball coach Michael Federico.
"They are ready to load that bus up, be in uniform and go play somebody. As coaches, we have to get those jitters out of their bodies and try to relax them."
The Eagles maybe able to put a few of their jitters at ease because of their familiarity with the type of team the squad will face today.
MCC still has very little information about Walters State, but Federico did study the write up the local paper did on the Senators.
Based on what the Eagles skipper read in the paper, he found some comparisons to two of the team's opponents this year and Walters State.
"I think they are very similar to a Gulf Coast (Community College) with their two big pitchers," Federico said. "Offensively, I think they will be
similar to Faulkner State (Community College) with moving runners over, hitting behind them and hit-and-runs. I think those last six games have prepared us."
The pitching ace MCC will face is Walters State sophomore Brad Rose (11-1). The second-year hurler has only suffered one loss in his junior college career, posting a 22-1 record with the Senators. The team's other big pitcher is Eric Blevins (10-2).
"He is a control-type pitcher," said Walters State head coach Ken Campbell of Rose. "He doesn't walk very many, and hopefully, we can play a little defense behind him."
The Eagles will throw their own ace against the Senators.
Sophomore Todd Doolittle (11-2) will take the mound for MCC, with his 97 strike outs in 76 innings.
"Todd is a guy who has been in big games his entire life," Federico said. "It will prepare him for next year in a SEC weekend. At Mississippi State, he will be playing in front of crowds like the ones we will play in front of every game."
Along with a strong pitching performance from the Meridian native, the Eagles will need the entire line up to be strong at the plate.
MCC is led by the trio of Aaron George, Josh Morgan and Van Pope in the three, four and five spots of the order.
The three freshmen have combined for 42 home runs and 130 RBIs this season.
"What is going to be key is those three and getting other guys on base," Federico said. "We talked about it all year about how hitting is contagious."
Walters State will not bring the same power to the plate, but the Senators have a strong team batting average of .332. The squad from Tennessee also seems to find a new hero for each game.
"It seems like a different person steps up and gets the job done in the clutch," Campbell said. "Our No. 9 hitter hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning to beat Young Harris (in the East Central District tournament). Different people get the job done at different times."
The Eagles will be counting on the exuberance of the youthful squad, the team fields eight freshmen in starting roles, to help power them through the series.
"They have nothing to lose," Federico said. "They have done great all year, and it is just a matter of going out there and playing. They are not freshmen anymore.
They are sophomores, and our sophomores are now juniors. The bottom line is they have 150 at bats, and they are ready to go."