PSC geared up for return trip to World Series
Sophomore lefty Pat Adkins will be
's No. 2 starter as the Catamounts get set to open the 2005 season with a three-game series this weekend at Florence-Darlington Tech (S.C.). Adkins will be a key figure in PSC's quest to return to the NJCAA Division I World Series. Last season, he went 5-7 with a 6.34 ERA. Tribune photo/Raymond Burner
My how time flies.
It seems like just yesterday the Potomac State Catamounts were returning from a trip to the NJCAA Division I World Series in Junction, Colo., and now the boys of summer - or winter - are set to kick off the 2005 season with a trip to South Carolina to take on Florence-Darlington Tech for a three-game series this weekend.
The Catamounts will play a doubleheader on Saturday and close out the series with a single game on Sunday - and it's not even President's Day yet.
"It's gotten here quickly," said Doug Little, who is entering his eighth year as
head coach. "We're actually opening up earlier than we ever have in the school's history. Usually we would start next weekend, but we decided to start earlier and I'm hoping that will help us down the road, because we'll probably be one of the first teams out of this area to play this year and hopefully that will give us a jump start."
PSC will open the season with eight straight road games. After this weekend's trip to
, the Cats will head back down south next weekend for a three-game series with Young-Harris (
). They will then visit
for a doubleheader on March 2 before hosting
for a four-game series March 5-6.
"We scheduled some really good teams early, but I feel it helps us when we get into conference play," Little said. "We've taken our lumps early. If you look at our record in years past, we start off slow but then toward the middle part of the season we start to pick it up. But it would be nice to start off fast and continue fast."
Last season the Catamounts started 13-19 before ripping off 18 wins in their last 21 games to finish at 31-22. They then won the Region XX title, the Eastern District Championship and made their first ever appearance in the Division I JUCO World Series, where they went 0-2 in the double-elimination tournament.
The Catamounts won the Division II World Series in 1995.
Last year's finish earned the Catamounts a No. 9 ranking in the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll. It the highest ranking for
since moving up to NJCAA Division I in 2000.
"We talked about it the day (the rankings) came out," Little said. "It's nice to be ranked No. 9, but unfortunately it's just a piece of paper. It's really based on what we did last year and has nothing to do with this year, even though being No. 9 kind of puts a target on your back for other teams to shoot for."
Little says he doesn't expect the lofty ranking to result in any added pressure on his players.
"I think our guys have kept it in very good perspective and handled it very well," said Little. "We don't talk about rankings much. It's kind of a second thought for us. We just focus on the season. Obviously if you win games you're going to stay up there, and if you lose you're going to drop. Really, I'm concerned with how we're playing at the end of the season."
If last season is any indication, the Catamounts should be playing well at the end of the 2005 campaign, considering eight starters are returning from 2004.
The only new faces on the field will be at first base, where freshmen Eric Saffell (
) and William Beasley (
) are expected to platoon in the early part of the season. Two players will also platoon at shortstop, with sophomore Lou Proietti, a transfer from Division I St. Peter's (N.J.), and freshman Brett Sellers (
) both expected to see some time.
The rest of the infield seems set, with Ryan Anderson (.261, 3 HR, 33 RBI) returning to second base, J.T. Osburn (.333, 5 HR, 33 RBI) manning the hot corner at third, and Derek Dayton, who hit .500 in 12 games last season, getting the nod behind the plate. Also seeing some time at catcher will be
graduate Lorin Noel.
The entire starting outfield is returning with All-Eastern District leftfielder Tino Sloboda (.222, 47 hits, 15 RBI), centerfielder Justin Dailey (.231, 7 doubles, 26 RBI) and rightfielder Brent Lockhart (.657, 32 hits, 10 RBI).
Freshman Bill Wooten (
) will also see some time in right.
"I look for (Osburn and Sloboda) to lead us in the lineup," Little said. "We have some other hitters around them to compliment them. We'll be able to put a decent lineup together one through nine this season.
"We're counting on those sophomores. They had a great experience last year and we're counting on each one of them to give us some leadership and show the younger guys what it takes to get (to the World Series)."
The pitching staff will be anchored by sophomore Brett McClain, who went 8-2 last season with 63 strikeouts and a 2.82 ERA in 67 innings pitched. He will take the mound in this Saturday's season opener.
Sophomore left-hander Pat Adkins (5-7, 6.34 ERA) will get the start in Game 2, while freshman Zach Thomas (Toronto, Ohio) will take the mound on Sunday.
"Our goal is to get most of our pitchers in this weekend and next weekend," said Little. "We're going to get their feet wet and by the middle of the season they're going to be in the thick of it."
Little says the goals of this year's team are no different from last year: finish with a winning record, make it to the regional tournament, win the region and advance to the Super Regional, win that and advance to the World Series.
"If you get to the Super Regional, it's you and two other teams, and the winner goes to the Series," Little said. "This year, whoever wins our region will host the Super Regional, so whoever wins the region has a legitimate shot at going to the World Series."
And with the trip to last year's World Series, will anything less than another trip this season be acceptable?
"That's our ultimate goal," Little said. "I think it's a very realistic goal because we've done it before and we were close in years past. We have to make the steps along the way to get there, and if we don't, sure it will be disappointing. But you also have to keep in perspective that only 10 teams get to do it, and we're going to try like heck to be one those 10 teams."