NEW ORLEANS — If Monday’s postgame celebration after winning the NJCAA Region 23 tournament is any indication, the Delgado Community College baseball squad has learned from its mistakes.
Moments after defeating Baton Rouge Community College 6-2 at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, Delgado players and coaches exchanged hugs, high- and low-fives and back slaps but steered clear of the traditional dog pile.
For the No. 3-ranked junior-college team in the country at 46-9, it’s business as usual.
“Winning here is step one of three steps,’’ Delgado coach Joe Scheuermann said when asked about the low-key celebration. “All this does is get us to the next step in Oklahoma, with the third step being the World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
“It just shows the maturity of this team. We’ve got tremendous sophomore leadership, guys who have been there before. You can’t teach that. Plus, our guys probably remembered what happened to us last year.’’
A year ago, Dolphins freshman left fielder Logan Jones scored the decisive run on a wild pitch to win the Region 23 championship in Meridian, Miss. When he emerged from the bottom of the dog pile, he had a broken collarbone, effectively ending his season.
Delgado’s season ended a few days later in the South Central District Championship, short of the World Series.
That was then.
The Dolphins are headed back to the NJCAA Division I South Central District Championship on Friday through Sunday at Connors State College in Warner, Okla. Delgado will open the double-elimination tournament against Maple Woods (Mo.) Community College (26-25) at noon Friday, then face the host team, Connors State (49-9), at 7 p.m.
Chances are good that Delgado will carry the country’s No. 1 ranking into the tournament. The top two teams in NJCAA Division I — Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College and Cowley County (Kan.) Community College — were eliminated in regional competition.
The Dolphins avoided a similar fate in the Region 23 tournament with excellent pitching, solid defense and timely hitting in an 11-3 win against Meridian and back-to-back wins against BRCC 8-2 and 6-2.
“We had a good season, but we lost a lot of guys to injuries that really hurt us,’’ said BRCC coach L.J. Dupuy, whose team finished 28-31. “We played hard, but we just weren’t good enough to overcome our injuries.’’
Freshman reliever Jacob Neil and sophomore right fielder Brady Williamson provided the heroics Monday. Neil (5-1) threw six innings of two-hit ball, striking out four and walking one. Williamson celebrated his 20th birthday in style, collecting two doubles and two RBIs.
“I’m glad coach gave me the opportunity,’’ Neil said. “I trusted my defense the whole game. They were amazing behind me. This was a great team win.’’
Williamson’s first double drove home Austin Barrios and Tony Fortier-Bensen as part of a three-run second for a 4-0 lead against BRCC starter Austin Greer (5-4).
“This is probably my last game in New Orleans,’’ said Williamson, who prepped at Jesuit. “I’d been playing here (at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium) for a long time, and it’s nice to go out like this.’’
The Dolphins have eclipsed the school record of 44 wins set in 2002. To Scheuermann, that’s 46 and counting.
“When you’ve got the sophomore leadership like we do,’’ said Scheuerman, “and you’re not afraid of the expectations ahead of you, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we make a lot of noise here the next few weeks.’’
Scheuermann was named the NJCAA Division 1 Region 23 Coach of the Year, the seventh time in the last eight years he has received this award ... The Dolphins will fly out Wednesday morning to Oklahoma where they will make their base of operations in Muskogee, about 30 miles away from Connors State.