Mo Pratt – Potomac State College
While the 2020 Potomac State College baseball season ended abruptly without a chance for a championship, the 1995 Catamount baseball team has the opportunity to celebrate one daily. The crowning achievement of the PSC athletic department is the 1995 NJCAA Division II Baseball World Series Championship and the 25th anniversary is upon us. The Catamounts, under then first-year head coach Craig Rotruck, won the only national championship in PSC athletics history on May 25, 1995.
Baseball in 1995 is one of the finest seasons ever put together by a team at Potomac State College. Two NJCAA Division II All-Americans, Jason Vindich first team and Mike Duvall third team. Regular season record of 33 wins and 6 losses. A perfect 7-0 post-season record. Overall 40-6 record equaling an NJCAA Division II leading .870 winning percentage. The list went on and on for the Catamounts, who finished the season on a 31-game win streak in route to claiming a 4-2 win over Kirkwood Community College (Iowa) at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn. for the national title.
Potomac State took an early 1-0 lead in the championship game over Kirkwood when Vindich scored on a Brendan Dougherty double in the bottom of the first inning. Kirkwood answered swiftly in the top of the second inning with a two-run homer off Catamount starting pitcher Duvall.
On the Kirkwood CC home run, Potomac State assistant coach Mike Simpson said, "Duvall threw one bad pitch the whole evening…and we were down 2-1." Simpson continued, "Mike (Duvall) recovered nicely." Recover nicely indeed, Duvall pitched eight innings surrendering only three hits and struck out a then NJCAA Division II World Series record tying 14 Kirkwood batters.
The Kirkwood lead was short-lived, PSC scored 2 runs in the bottom of the fourth. John Murphy scored on a Keith Cox double and Cox was pushed across the plate on a Vindich double for a 3-2 Catamount lead. Potomac State would add and insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Tony Allen scored on a Cox single for a 4-2 lead.
Potomac State closer Steve Beller entered for starter Duvall in the ninth inning and slammed the door on Kirkwood, closing out the World Series clinching victory on a pair of strikeouts.
The Potomac State performance over a four-game span at the 1995 NJCAA World Series was nothing short of spectacular. The Catamounts opened the tournament with a dominant 10-0 win over Delaware Tech and followed that with an efficient 6-1 victory over Macomb Community College (Mich.). In the third game the Catamounts dispatched of defending national champion Lincoln Land Community College (Ill.) 5-2. In an eight-team double elimination tournament, the Catamounts needed the minimum four games, closing it out with the win over Kirkland.
It is commonly said that reaching the pinnacle of your sport requires luck along the way. It is evident by the post-season results that the '95 Catamounts left very little to chance.
Coach Rotruck, a 2011 Inductee of the PSC Athletics Hall of Fame, shares some insight to Potomac State's championship run, "From our day-one meeting we talked about setting our team's goals, every meeting and every practice ends with reviewing those goals and the means to achieving them." Rotruck continued, "The ultimate goal, to be one of the very few collegiate baseball teams each year to win a national championship."
Setting goals is great, how do you reach them? "No shortage of hard work," replies Rotruck. "Now they call it "the grind", we were grinding every day. The players on the '95 team worked hard, did the required work and then more. They deserved the championship, they earned it."
Rotruck acknowledges the team members weren't the only ones working hard. "Coaches Mike Simpson and Chris Wilson outworked every coach in NJCAA Division II in 1995 and won a national championship, it's not a coincidence."
Freshman pitcher Chris Reyes was honored with World Series MVP honors for his performance in the tournament. He claimed two wins, striking out six with no walks in a complete game two-hitter against Delaware Tech and collecting 10 strikeouts in the win over Lincoln Land.
Joining Reyes on the All-Tournament team were Dougherty, Vindich, Murphy, Duvall and Charlie Kuykendall.
Rotruck, who has returned to Potomac State as the current head softball coach, realizes all the talent on the '95 team wasn't there by chance. "A special thanks goes to current Potomac State head baseball coach Doug Little, without him the national championship wouldn't have been possible."
Little served as head coach of the Catamounts in '93 and '94 and left prior to the '95 season to accept a position on the staff at West Virginia University. He returned to the helm at Potomac State after the 1999 season. Prior to 1995 Little had led the Potomac State baseball team to the JUCO World Series in both the '93 and '94 seasons, including a runner-up finish in '94.
Asked for final thoughts Coach Rotruck adds, "We had the support of the Potomac State administration, the athletic department, the college community and the player's families. Each piece equally important." He continues, "I would like to recognize current Potomac State baseball assistant coach Don Schafer for his continued support of the 1995 national championship baseball team."
The 1995 National Champions are set to be honored as the 2020 inductee into the Potomac State College Athletics Hall of Fame. The traditional hall of fame induction ceremony in April was postponed for the coronavirus pandemic. An alternate hall of fame event is being planned in coordination with Homecoming festivities during the first weekend of October 2020.