June 15, 2013

Former Wildcats Could Match Up

From JUCO World Series to College World Series

Two former Western Nevada College baseball players may soon meet again, in the 2013 College World Series. North Carolina State relief pitcher Andrew Woeck and Oregon State reliever Brandon Jackson are also among a growing number of former Wildcats student athletes who made it to the College World Series after also playing in the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., a year earlier.

In the past four seasons, the Wildcats have sent five student athletes to the NCAA baseball’s showcase tournament in Omaha, Neb., a year after they represented WNC in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.

Woeck was instrumental in helping the NC State Wolfpack make the College World Series for the first time in 45 years with a 17-inning marathon victory against Rice. Jackson and the Beavers were celebrating in Corvallis after Oregon State rallied from an opening loss to Kansas State in the Super Regionals to win the next two games, returning to Omaha for the first time since 2007.

They join current WNC pitching coach Josh Moody (Arizona State University, 2010); Baltimore Orioles’ minor leaguer Jerome Pena (Texas Christian University, 2010) and Boise restaurant manager Kyle Starratt (TCU, 2010) as former Wildcats who have pulled off the unique back-to-back World Series appearances.

“If you can play at WNC, you can play anywhere,” said Woeck, who won 15 of his 20 decisions during his two seasons at WNC and is 6-1 with a 3.09 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings for N.C. State this spring.

Jackson didn’t make an appearance in the Super Regionals, but the junior has a 4-1 record and 2.48 ERA for the Beavers. In his 2012 season for WNC, the right-hander was second to fifth-round draft selection Dylan Baker with a 10-1 record, and his 1.55 ERA also was the staff’s second-best.

The Wildcats also had three formers players participate in the 2010 College World Series, a year after leading WNC to third place in the JUCO World Series. Pena and Starratt were teammates on the first TCU Horned Frogs team to qualify for the CWS.

Pena said players who come through the WNC program are instilled with confidence to succeed elsewhere.

In 2009, Pena made the NJCAA World Series all-tournament team as the Wildcats won three games to finish third in Grand Junction, then went on to become only the third player ever to hit a homer from each side of the plate in Omaha.

“That was one of the greatest feelings of my life, if not the greatest,” Pena said. He is now playing for high-Single-A Frederick in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization.

These success stories have put the WNC program on the cusp of another feat.

"Outside of Grand Junction, the best baseball tournament in the country is in Omaha,” Head Coach DJ Whittemore said. “Watching our alumni compete for an NCAA D-1 championship on ESPN is one of the great thrills for our coaching staff. One day soon we hope to witness one of our former players win the national championship.”


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