Delgado sets its sights toward NJCAA World Series

NEW ORLEANS — Grand Junction, Colo., or bust!

That seems to be the mindset of the No. 3-ranked Delgado Community College baseball squad heading into the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 23 Tournament on Saturday and Sunday at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.

Three teams will enter the double-elimination regional — Delgado (43-9), Baton Rouge Community College (27-29) and Meridian Community College (18-28). Only one will advance to play in the three-team NJCAA South Central District Championship on May 18-19 in Oklahoma.

For Delgado, anything short of reaching the NJCAA World Series (May 25-June 1) in Grand Junction, Colo., is not in the cards.

“Without a doubt, it would be disappointing,’’ Delgado center fielder Bubby Riley said. “We have the talent to get there. We are deep on the mound. We play good defense. We’ve got guys one through nine in the order who can hit. We have great team chemistry, and we love playing together.

“If we don’t make it to Grand Junction, it would be a disappointment.’’

Delgado coach Joe Scheuermann shares that sentiment, reminding his team to play one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time and don’t peek any farther down the road to Grand Junction.

“This is baseball,’’ Scheuermann said. “Everybody can beat everybody. I keep telling our guys, ‘We’ve got to play the game.’ Nobody is going to hand it to us.’’

On paper, the Dolphins are the favorite to win this weekend, owning a 4-2 record against BRCC and a 4-1 record against MCC in Miss-Lou Conference play.

Saturday’s first game will pit BRCC against MCC at noon. Delgado will face MCC at 3:30 p.m., then turn around and play BRCC in the nightcap at 7 p.m.

The Dolphins are expected to throw two left-handers Saturday: freshman Trent Christian (8-2, 2.93) against MCC and sophomore Pierce Liberta (6-0, 2.16) against BRCC. Depending on Saturday’s results, Scheuermann said he will have starters John DeArmond (2-2, 3.69) and Chase Hymel (7-1, 2.02) ready to go Sunday.

“The bottom line in baseball is, you’re as good as your starting pitching,’’ Scheuermann said. “They’ve given quality starts to get us into the sixth and seventh inning all season long. Then, our bullpen has been really good with Kyle Deckwa (4-0, 3.32) and Brandt Bourgeois (3-0, 1.83). We’ve had the ability to shorten games where our opponents haven’t.’’

Asked if this is his best team in 23 seasons at the helm, Scheuermann replied: “I think so. It’s our highest ranking ever. We were fourth nationally in my second season (1992, 41-15). We made it to the NJCAA World Series in 2007 and we were two and gone, losing opening night and the next day.

“But yeah, I think we’re a pretty good junior college baseball team. We’re pretty well-rounded.’’

Scheuermann paused, perhaps sensing that he might be getting caught up in the hype surrounding his team.

“Rankings are nice,’’ he said. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment and says a lot about the direction our program is going. But you can throw the rankings out the window when the playoffs start. Everybody starts out 0-0 on Saturday. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

“If we don’t play good baseball, we’re going to be very disappointed.’’