Cisco College's baseball team is enjoying its best season in the program's short history as the Wranglers won the Region V Championship last week in Lubbock and will now make the school's maiden voyage to the National Junior College Athletic Association's World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., beginning Saturday.
The Wranglers are 48-13 on the year and the 48 wins are a school record. Cisco is ranked No. 10 in the latest NJCAA poll. The Wranglers journey for a national title will begin on Saturday at 8:30 CST against either Eastern Oklahoma State or Jefferson (Mo.) College.
Head coach David White, the only head coach in the eight-year history of the program, has built a team around a rotation of reliable pitchers and a consistent and steady offense that doesn't care who gets the credit.
"We just have a bunch of hard-nosed guys that are not afraid to go to work," said White. "They have been a team all year long that doesn't get too high or too low and they all believe in each other and that has been our key."
The Wranglers are not a team that has eye-popping numbers, but they have a good combination of speed, power and timely hitting.
Freshman shortstop Jake Armstrong from Odessa Permain leads the Wranglers offense. He is hitting .446 with six home runs and 50 RBI. He also had 22 doubles and four triples to lead the team. Sophomore first baseman Alvaro Moreno from McAllen leads the team with 53 RBI and he hits .337. Sophomore outfielder Rustin Thomas is hitting .379 with 42 runs driven in and 46 runs scores.
Armstrong and Moreno were first-team all-conference selections and Thomas and outfielder/designated hitter Mark Davis were second-team selections.
"We have had different people step up for us all year long," said White. "Our longest losing streak of the year was three games and that was the last three games before the regional and I think just two other times did we lose two games in a row. We have had a team that has bounced back from any tough situation we have faced. They battle to the end."
The pitching staff is led by some talented arms. Freshman Corey Taylor from Kennedale is one of the best in the country with an 11-1 mark and a 1.39 ERA. Sophomore Brad Vachon, who won two games in the regional, is 8-3 with a 3.34. Vachon has signed with Texas-Arlington and is originally from Round Rock.
Arturo Martoral, a freshman from Puerto Rico, is 8-0 on the year and Oklahoma State signee Austin Salter, a sophomore from Kingwood, is 5-2.
"We have a pretty deep pitching staff," said White. "Corey and Brad have been great all year, but Martoral and Salter are also two guys we rely on to get us deep into games. In the bullpen, (Heath) Herrington and Robert Baker, those are two guys that can come in and shut down some games."
Herrington, a Texas Tech signee who also plays centerfield, is the relief ace with nine saves. He and Taylor were both named first-team all-conference as pitchers.
Armstrong was named the player of the year, Taylor was named the top pitcher in the conference and White was named the coach of the year. Of the 15 sophomores on the roster, 11 have already signed to play somewhere next season.
The Wranglers advanced to the World Series by beating Howard College, 5-2, in an "if necessary" game. Cisco defeated Western Texas 7-1, New Mexico Junior College 7-2 and HC 8-0 to move into the championship game where they had to be beaten twice.
Howard College battled through the loser's bracket to get a shot at Cisco and won the first championship game 16-7, but true to their season-long form the Wranglers did not let the loss disappoint them and they battled back to beat No. 5 Howard to earn the ticket to Grand Junction.
"We had played Howard four times before that championship game and none of the games had been close, they had pounded us twice and we had done the same to them. We just came out poised, put up a five-spot in the second inning and Brad (Vachon) and Heath (Herrington) made it hold up."
The World Series is a 10-team double elimination tournament that runs May 26 through June 2.
"Obviously, we are proud of our guys for getting to the World Series but we don't just want to be there," said White. "We have a team that believes that it can go out there and compete with the 10 best teams in the country and come home a champion."
For fans wanting to keep up with the Wranglers in Grand Junction, www.jucogj.org is the web site of the tournament and it has brackets, live video broadcasts and stats of each game.
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