No. 1 Pirates face No. 2 Delgado in first game
By DAVID MITCHELL
One way or another, the Chattahoochee Valley Community College baseball team was going to be facing a tough opponent.
That's what happens when you are one of the final 10 teams playing in the junior college world series, which begins Saturday in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Still, the Pirates, ranked No. 1 in the country, probably didn't expect to face the No. 2 team, Delgado, right out of the gates.
At 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the tournament, however, that is who the Pirates will get.
"It was just luck of the draw," coach Adam Thomas said.
Unlike the Division-I College World Series, which seeds teams in its tournament, the junior college world series draws for region matchups. As luck would have it, the top two teams in the country were matched against each other.
But a number of Pirates said that wasn't such a bad thing.
"I think it could be a good thing," pitcher Hunter Mitchell said. "That could be a good chance for us to make a statement right away against whoever they say is the second best team in the country. That's what we want. We want to play the best we can possibly play and prove ourselves that way."
And as shortstop John Holland accurately pointed out, they have to outplay the other nine teams in the tournament one way or another. There is no easy way to win.
"We're going to have to beat everyone at some point, so why not get out there right away and face (Delgado)," Holland said. "We get to throw our No. 1 against their No. 1 and see what happens."
The Pirates' No. 1 is, of course, pitcher Dalton Rentz, who has a 12-2 record, 1.58 earned run average and 94 strikeouts in 97 innings pitched.Rentz went 10-1 last season, and his 22 wins make him the all-time winningest pitcher at the school.
Asked what it was that made Rentz so special, Thomas couldn't place it.
"I don't know," he said. "What is it about Roger Cle
mens or Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux? It's the same thing, just on a smaller level. You see guys with 90-mph arms who are OK, and you see guys who just can't be beat. I don't know what it is. It doesn't matter if he's got good stuff, bad stuff or whatever, he's going to give us a chance to win."
Rentz couldn't shed much more light on his success, either.
"I don't know," he said. "I just try to fight through and overcome each obstacle. It comes from preparation, your coaches preparing you the right way and getting the mental aspect down."
That's the kind of pitcher the Pirates are glad to have on the hill to open the JUCO world series against the No. 2 team in the country -- a guy they believe will give them a chance to win no matter what. One who has the gamer mentality necessary to compete against the best at a high level.
"That's the team I want to play," Rentz said of Delgado. "The best team. The team that thinks it's better than us."
And Thomas said that winning Game 1 is the only priority to begin the tournament. If that means they have to use Dylan Lee or Mitchell to follow Rentz in the opener, then so be it. He'll worry about pitching options after they get the first 'W'.
If they can do that, then perhaps the rest of the tournament will fall into place.
"If we can get that first one out of the way, then everything else is just playing ball," Mitchell said.