January 18, 2008

Wildcats Looking to Defend Title in 2008

The Western Nevada College Wildcats baseball team may find itself looking over its shoulder this season after finishing fifth in the country last year and winning the Western District Championship. If the Wildcats' opponents weren't motivated by WNC's 2007 success, they need only read Collegiate Baseball's 2008 pre-season NJCAA college preview. The magazine picked the Wildcats as a national preseason No. 5 for the 2008 season.

Western Nevada returns only six players from last year's Junior College World Series team, and only one of them is a pitcher. Collegiate Baseball selected freshman Kyle Farrell as one of the country's top right-handed pitchers at the junior college level. Sophomore Andrew Reid (picked First Team All-conference by the Scenic West coaches a year ago after he led the conference in hitting by almost 65 points) was selected as one of the top first basemen.

The Wildcats were followed in the polls by three other West Coast teams in the pre-season Top 20. Cochise College of Arizona was picked No. 13 in the pre-season poll. Western Nevada opened its 2007 season against Cochise, winning 6-3. Cross-state rival College of Southern Nevada was No. 16. College of Southern Nevada is a fellow Scenic West Athletic Conference team whom the Wildcats beat twice at CSN's Leid Field to win the 2007 Region XVIII championship. The final West Coast representative was No. 20 Central Arizona, whom the Wildcats beat twice at the Western District in Nebraska last May.

The pre-season poll will definitely challenge the Wildcats, according to Coach D.J. Whittemore. "The recognition from pre-season polls is nice for recruiting but in this case, I think it puts unrealistic expectations upon our players," he said. "This year's team is young and hasn't accomplished much yet, other than doing well in the classroom this past fall. The ranking is based on the success of last year's team."

Whittemore added, "If you are going to wear a bulls-eye on your chest you better have a bullet-proof vest. Cole Rohrbough (Atlanta Braves), Steve Sauer (Arizona State University), and Justin Garcia (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) all graduated, so we're going to have to see how some young and inexperienced players do handling the load."

The Wildcats face a daunting start to their 2008 season - 12 games on the road against some of the best teams in Arizona. In an effort to avoid wintry weather in northern Nevada, Western plays its first 28 contests on the road, spanning a full eight weeks of the season.
"By the time we play a home game we will have traveled over 6,400 miles and played in eight different ballparks," said Whittemore. "We don't look at the travel as a negative, but rather as a chance to play some well coached and talented teams under adverse conditions. In the past if we have been able to stay close to .500 entering conference play then we felt our confidence level should be okay."

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