Delgado’s Scheuermann celebrating another anniversary at World Series
Three weeks ago, Delgado Community College baseball coach Joe Scheuermann celebrated one 30th anniversary – his wedding day. This weekend, he’ll commemorate another 30-year milestone – the program’s first-ever trip to the Junior College World Series.
Thanks to some clutch performances by his 2015 Dolphins earlier this week at the South Central District tournament, he’ll be able to celebrate with his team in Grand Junction, Colorado, the longtime home of Division I JUCO baseball’s promised land.
Delgado arrived in Grand Junction Wednesday afternoon, barely 24 hours after wrapping up their second straight South Central title with a 9-6 victory over St. Louis Community College in a winner-take-all matchup in Seminole, Oklahoma.
“It tells ourselves and everybody else we should be considered the real deal,” Scheuermann said Thursday afternoon of his program’s first back-to-back trips to the World Series. “It’s tough to get here. If you come to Delgado, you’re going to play at one of the best junior college baseball programs in the country.”
A year ago, Delgado entered Grand Junction as the nation’s second-ranked team, and thanks to the World Series’ pre-determined bracket, it faced the No. 1 team in the land in the opening round, Chattahoochee Valley Community College of Alabama.
“When LSU played Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago (in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at Alex Box Stadium), I was thinking back to that game,” said sophomore right fielder Cody Ducote of Brother Martin, one of three Delgado players to sign with LSU in the fall. “That was our first experience of a big crowd. To see the fans, the atmosphere, it was a lot of fun.”
The Dolphins could not hold on to a late two-run lead and lost 8-6 in the opening round, then were eliminated by Cochise College of Arizona, 9-5, the following day. Delgado is looking to snap a six-game losing streak in World Series play when it opens play at 1 p.m. CDT against Walters State Community College of Tennessee.
“The first game is big,” Scheuermann said, noting that the first day losers have to come back and play an elimination game the next day while the winners get a day off.
Because this is the first time the Dolphins are making back-to-back trips to Grand Junction, it’s also the first time a player will wear the Delgado uniform knowing what the World Series experience is about.
“We heard about how big of a stage it was,” Ducote said, “but we were in awe and how big JUCO baseball was on a national stage. A lot of people admitted how happy we were to get there.
“We knew from the fall, between the pitching and the offense, that we had a really good shot of getting back. That’s kind of been our goal.”
Ducote said the sophomores have emphasized to the new players to not let the moment get too big.
“The biggest thing is it’s just baseball,” he said. “Play the game we’ve been playing.”
This is the seventh day of what could be a road trip of two weeks or longer for the Dolphins. They left last Friday for Oklahoma and the district tournament, and the night before their first game, were greeted with tornado sirens.
“I always tell our guys to worry about the things you can control,” said Scheuermann, who is in his 25th season at the helm of the Dolphins. “The fact that we had such a sophomore-laden team with a lot of poise was key. These guys really didn’t let it get in their way and got it done.”
Delgado opened the tournament with an emphatic 9-1 opening-game victory over St. Louis Community College Sunday, and when the Archers bounced back with a 3-2 win over host Seminole State, the Dolphins ended the first day of the tournament as its lone unbeaten.
That set the stage for the tournament’s most dramatic game.
After rallying from an early deficit to take a 6-3 lead in the top of the seventh, Delgado could not hold the lead against Seminole, giving up a run in the eighth and two in the ninth to tie the game. The Trojans had a chance to win it, but Ducote threw out a runner at the plate trying to score the winning run.
“If Ducote doesn’t make that play, we’re in trouble,” Scheuermann said.
The Dolphins got the three-run lead back in the top of the 10th inning, but Seminole threatened in the bottom half, loading the bases.
With two outs and a 3-2 count, reliever Troy Lewis got the strikeout he needed, but the pitch got past catcher Kyle Bracey, and Bracey’s throw sailed into right field. However, the home plate umpire ruled interference on the batter, who was running in fair territory down the first-base line, ending the game and Seminole’s season.
“I’ve never seen a game end like that,” Scheuermann said.
Added Ducote: “Going in, we thought Seminole was the team to beat. It was a very emotional game.”
Delgado fed off the big-play momentum to score four runs in the top of the first inning of the first championship game with St. Louis. That lead, and another four-run cushion later in the game, wouldn’t last, however. The Archers scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh and took a 12-8 victory to force the winner-take-all game.
“I think we tried to make that lead last and they kept scratching and they wound up coming back and beating us,” Ducote said. “It was kind of a letdown … but we were very confident. We eventually accomplished what we went up there to do.”
Ace sophomore left-hander Brooks Vial, who hadn’t pitched in a game in more than a month because of a groin injury, gave up three runs in the first inning.
Scheuermann said he quickly re-focused his team after the loss to St. Louis.
“I told them that the good news is, we’re going to play tomorrow,” he said. “If you would have asked me six months ago who you’d want throwing the championship game, we’d have said Vial.”
“Once he got through the first inning, he realized he was going to be okay.”
With an offense sparked by leadoff hitter Cole Freeman and relief help from Troy Lewis, the Dolphins punched their return ticket to Grand Junction.
“I’m beyond excited,” Ducote said, “but I’m going to handle my emotions a little bit better this time.”
Coincidentally, the team that Delgado will face in the opening round – Walters State – is the same team “Rags” Scheuermann’s Dolphins defeated to get to Grand Junction three decades ago.
Joe Scheuermann was a first-year assistant coach at Tulane when Delgado made its first JUCO World Series appearance. Three weeks after his wedding, he was in Grand Junction watching three of his Tulane recruits play for his father.
Now, three weeks after celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary, he’s back for the Dolphins’ fourth trip to Grand Junction.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…