Despite all the winning Joe Scheuermann has done in 26 years as Delgado’s baseball coach, there’s still one loss that eats at him.
The last time the Dolphins hosted a postseason tournament, they were knocked out of it in a heartbreaking, 10-inning battle that ended in a controversial play that Scheuermann still hasn’t forgotten.
“We lost on just a brutal, brutal play,” he recalled. “What we thought was a foul ball got called fair. I still can see it now.”
Delgado (33-14) — ranked No. 8 in the NJCAA Division I poll — will have a chance to make up for that bad memory when the NJCAA South Central District Championship returns to Kirsch-Rooney Stadium this weekend.
The three team double-elimination tournament begins Friday and ends Sunday with the winner advancing to the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. The other teams competing are Eastern Oklahoma State College and Maple Woods Community College.
Postseason games are nothing new for the Dolphins, but getting an opportunity to play in front of their home crowd has considerably raised the excitement around the team going into Friday’s doubleheader, which begins at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s a great feeling to know we have a chance to make it to Grand Junction in front of our home crowd,” starting pitcher Jace Nini said. “It would already be great for us, but that would make it feel even more awesome.”
Delgado is making its 10th appearance in the South Central District Championship in the past 11 seasons, including each of the past seven.
But just making it to the tournament hasn’t been enough for the team recently.
The Dolphins won the district championship the past two years, earning only the third and fourth berths into the JUCO World Series in school history, and believe they have the talent to continue the recent trend.
“At the the junior college level, it’s a constant revolving door, but we’ve worked had to make sure we can sustain success,” Scheuermann said. “What’s happened with us is, I think our guys (are) expecting to be successful more than hoping. And when that happens, you get into these big games and guys play more loose and with more confidence.”
Last year’s team leaned on an explosive lineup of hitters that included the trio of Cole Freeman, Cody Ducote and Bryce Adams, who are now playing at LSU, along with catcher Kyle Bracey, who now plays at UNO.
As is the case with many JUCO teams, Scheuermann was forced to lean on new players to fill the shoes of his departed stars, and those new faces did just that.
Newcomers Robbie Podorsky and Daniel Lahare has helped Delgado sustain its great hitting, while Jace Nini and Evan Hileman have also stepped in and given the Dolphins stability at the top of the pitching rotation.
“I knew when I came in that this team did a lot of winning, and we were expected to keep that up,” Nini said. “My teammates have helped me out a lot this year, and it’s given us all the confidence to go out and play knowing that we all have each others back.”