Gators Eyeing Another JUCO World Series Appearance

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Gators Eyeing Another JUCO World Series Appearance

The 2018-19 San Jacinto College Baseball team is hoping for a shot at redemption after falling last year to Walters State during the semifinals of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

The 2018-19 San Jacinto College Baseball team is hoping for a shot at redemption after falling last year to Walters State during the semifinals of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Melissa Trevizo/San Jacinto College Marketing, Public Relations and Government Affairs Department

The 2018-19 San Jacinto College Baseball team is hoping for a shot at redemption after falling last year to Walters State during the semifinals of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Melissa Trevizo/San Jacinto College Marketing, Public Relations and Government Affairs Department

Melissa Trevizo/San Jacinto College Marketing, Public Relations and Government Affairs Department

The 2018-19 San Jacinto College Baseball team is hoping for a shot at redemption after falling last year to Walters State during the semifinals of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

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Since its founding in 1958, the Junior College (JUCO) World Series baseball tournament has seen many national champions but with 26 tournament appearances under its belt, the San Jacinto College baseball program holds more championship titles than any of the other 189 teams in Division 1 JUCO baseball; garnering enough rings to adorn each finger on one hand.

Last year, the team lost their chance at the championship series suffering a devastating 17-0 loss to Walters State during the semifinals. However, this season the Gators bounced back and as of press time hold an overall record of 22-8, 11-4 in conference, putting them well on the road to a shot at another title.

The Gators’ Assistant Coach Eric Weaver, who is responsible for pitching and infield coaching as well as assisting with player recruitment, said the coaching staff understands the challenge of continuing the program’s winning legacy and more so, they embrace it.

“A lot of tradition is here at San Jac, and it leads to a lot of expectations,” Weaver said. “The team has an end goal in sight, and they put in the work so they can reap the benefits of it.”

To reach that objective and continue to build on the program’s rich history, the coach said recruiting top athletes is crucial. Moreover, the coaching staff looks for players who are above the caliber of standard community college athletics.

“We don’t want the junior college player. We want the same guy that plays at D1 school’s level and also guys that can end up getting drafted,” Weaver said. “We work hard on the recruiting trail in order to give us a chance to win a national title.”

Among the Gators’ newest recruits is Jackson Rutledge, a right-handed pitcher whom the staff envisions will be a future first-round draft pick. However, deciding to transfer to San Jac from Arkansas University proved easier for Rutledge than hitting one of his signature 95-99 mph fastballs.

“The combination of facilities, being a powerhouse, and having great coaches was what separated it from other schools,” he said.

As the Gators find themselves in the latter half of the season headed into the post-season, the players and coaches continue their drive to maintain the team’s standing as a premier college baseball program.

“The major motivation for us right now is pride and proving we are still the best team in Texas, if not the country,” Rutledge said.

Another factor, contributing to the team’s strength, according to Weaver, is the palpable connection between the athletes and the coaching staff.

“We have a very tightknit group with good chemistry within the staff and players,” Weaver said. “Everyone shows up and works game to game, practice to practice, and enjoy each other’s company. That helps us battle together for each other.”

The Gators next home game is against Wharton County on April 6 at 3 p.m. at John Ray Harrison Field at Andy Pettitte Park on the North Campus.

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