Last year at this time, Delgado Community College was coming off an appearance in the NJCAA World Series with a team of returning players.
The Dolphins parlayed that into a second consecutive trip to the World Series.
But after 22 players signed with four-year colleges, coach Joe Scheuermann’s team has plenty of newcomers this season — most notably the pitching staff.
“We’re not in a rebuilding year, but we’re in a reloading year,” said Scheuermann, who enters his 25th season as head coach. “We lost seven starters from off last year’s club. It’s the most starters I’ve had to replace since I’ve been coaching at Delgado.”
Delgado, however, is ranked No. 9 in the first NJCAA poll — its second consecutive year opening the season in the top 10 and the 29th consecutive week in the rankings. The Dolphins open their season Thursday at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in the “Rags” Scheuermann Memorial Tournament, named for Joe Scheuermann’s father.
Lou Scheuermann was a legendary college coach at Loyola and Delgado and the fixture of New Orleans’ summer AABA teams.
The event is a three-team, round-robin tournament that includes perennial opponent Pensacola Junior College and Saint Joseph (Vermont) College, coached by Bob Todlewski, who played and coached for Schenectady, N.Y., against Rags Scheuermann’s AABA teams.
The tournament begins what will be a 15-game stretch to determine Delgado’s starting lineup, Joe Scheuermann said.
“Last season, we had the same eight or nine guys starting for the whole season,” he said. “This season, we have about 15 guys we’ll play and see how they respond. We have some freshmen we want to get experience and some sophomores we will give a chance to win starting spots.”
Only two starters return from last year’s team. Catcher Spencer Miller, who prepped at Jesuit High School, primarily was the designated hitter last season, when the Dolphins went 33-16. The other starter is third baseman Owen Magee (.361 batting average), who prepped at Brother Martin.
The Dolphins also will have two players back from injury. First baseman Dylan Weston, who batted .333 in six games as a freshman last season but was medically reshirted with a hammate bone injury. Infielder Tyler St. Philip (.348) started 22 games last season before the labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder was torn.
Delgado’s pitching staff also will be new.
“We will be very good defensively, and I think, offensively, we’ll be able to score runs,” he said. “If our pitching comes through for us, we could be real good.
“We’re ranked ninth, but we have to play up to that ranking. We have to pitch up to it. If not, we’re going to have to find a way to win games.”
Laine Fontenot, the team’s closer last season, will be a starting pitcher. Two transfers from Nicholls State and a freshman will be counted on to bolster the mound. Right-hander Evan Hileman, who prepped at John Curtis, will be a starter, and Connor Whalen, who played at Baton Rouge’s Catholic High, will be the closer.
Scheuermann is high on freshman Jace Nini, an All-Metro selection at Archbishop Shaw last season. Nini also will play in the infield.
Three other transfers expected to start are second baseman Brandt Broussard (Nicholls State), and outfielders Robbie Podorsky (UL-Monroe) and Toi Jackson (Southern).
Freshmen JP LaGreco, a catcher from Northshore High, and Daniel Lahare, an outfielder from Brother Martin who redshired at Southeastern Louisiana last year, are expected to battle for starting spots.