If there is one thing Delgado Community College baseball coach Joe Scheuermann understands, it’s that a promotion in a national poll does not necessarily guarantee advancement in the postseason.
In the most recent National Junior College Athletic Association rankings, the Dolphins (40-10) rose from No. 3 to No. 2, behind only Chattahoochee State. But nobody with the newly crowned Region XXIII champions is inclined to celebrate that loftier spot just yet.
“We went in ranked No. 1 in the country,” Scheuermann said in recalling Delgado’s trip to the South Central regional in 2013, where the Dolphins lost in the championship game of the double-elimination tournament to Connors State to finish 47-11. “We had a target on our back. Now we’re the highest-ranked team in this regional again, so that target’s on our back again.
“A high ranking in the poll is nice, but that means nothing from here on out. You’ve still got to go out and play your game.”
Scheuermann’s team hopes to play its game at peak efficiency in this year’s South Central tournament, which begins Friday and is scheduled to run through Sunday in Neosha, Mo. The other two teams in the tourney are No. 8 Crowder College (45-15), the host school and Region XVI champion, and No. 20 Seminole State (38-16), the Region II titlist.
Sophomore lefthander Chase Hymel (8-0, 2.29 ERA) gets the start for the Dolphins in Friday’s first game at 1 p.m., against Seminole, the nation’s top home-run-hitting team. Seminole and Crowder play at 4 p.m., with Delgado sending freshman lefty Brooks Vial (8-2, 3.41) to the mound against Crowder in the nightcap at 7.
Another southpaw, sophomore Jonathan Priddle (6-2, 3.10), is set to start Saturday against an opponent to be determined if the Dolphins are still alive after the first day.
Despite Delgado’s tradition of success in its 24 years under Joe Scheuermann, the Dolphins have advanced to the NJCAA World Series just once, in 2007. Getting there again might also prove a tough chore, given the fact that Scheuermann’s squad again is playing on the road. This year Delgado was an astounding 28-1 at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, just 12-9 away from its home field.
“The toughest thing we have to deal with (in the postseason) is we have to play on the road all the time,” Scheuermann said. “In all the years I’ve been at Delgado, we’ve hosted this tournament only once. Everybody talks about our record at home, but what we try to do is to play the toughest opponents we can on the road in anticipation of just this situation. I think it can help when you make it this far.”
Another presumed benefit for the Dolphins is their experience at this level. Crowder and Seminole have not advanced to the South Central tournament in several years, so Delgado — with six starting sophomore position players and two starting pitchers in their second seasons — might have a better idea of what to expect.
“We’ve got several guys, like (catcher Chris) Eades and (third baseman Jordan) Caillouet, who went to this regional last year,” Scheuermann said. “They’ve been there and done that. Hymel’s pitched in this thing. The other two clubs are both new to this. We’ve been there and done that. I think that’s an advantage to us.”
Scheuermann admits to knowing little about either Seminole or Crowder, other than what he’s been able to glean from calling some of his baseball friends. This isn’t NCAA Division I, where many games are televised and scouting reports are detailed and easily obtainable.
“Seminole’s offensive numbers jump out at you,” Scheuermann said, noting that the Trojans’ 74 homers are 17 more than the next-highest team. (Delgado has 28) “I don’t know if that’s because they have a small ballpark or a lot of guys who hit for power.
“Crowder’s forte is speed (Ryan Lazo has stolen 37 bases and been caught just once) and pitching. They have a real good lefthander, a transfer from Arkansas (sophomore Mark Reyes, who is 8-3 with a 2.20 ERA). So we’ve got to stop one team’s offense, and we need to generate some offense against the other team.”
Not that Scheuermann is apt to do much tinkering. As he said, “We have to keep doing what we did to get here in the first place. No sense in changing what works.”
Should Delgado take care of business, the Dolphins would move on to the NJCAA World Series May 24-31 in Grand Junction, Colo.