Wildcats baseball welcomed home | NevadaAppeal.com

Wildcats baseball welcomed home

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Western Nevada Community College's Tom Miller autographs a baseball during a barbecue for the Wildcats at the college on Friday.

Four straight semesters of National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Academic All-American status; two regional championships; one district crown; one conference title; one JUCO World Series appearance.

After this kind of success in the first two years of its athletic programs, what can Western Nevada Community College possibly do for an encore? For now, WNCC is celebrating its JUCO World Series appearance by its baseball team and held a barbecue on Friday on campus to celebrate the club’s accomplishment.

About 100 people followed WNCC to the World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., to watch the team go 2-2 in the event in just its second year and about that many people turned out Friday to begin to relive the memories.

The World Series was a climax to two years of success for WNCC’s athletic programs. In each of their two seasons, WNCC’s women’s soccer teams and baseball teams have earned Academic All-American honors.

The women’s soccer team won a regional title this past fall and the baseball team also won regional and district crowns to earn its way to this year’s World Series. The baseball team also won a Scenic West Athletic Conference title in its inaugural season last year.

This semester, the baseball team maintained a 3.10 grade point average, an outstanding mark considering the team was on the road for 25 of its last 29 games and 45 overall for the year. Nineteen of the team’s 25 players have a 3.0 G.P.A. or above.

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Twelve of the team’s 17 sophomores graduated. By comparison, most comparable junior college athletic programs have graduation rates about half that. In addition, 12 of the 13 sophomores who have been in the program for two years have maintained a G.P.A. of 3.0 or above.

Just like the baseball team, those who went to Grand Junction to follow the club became close knit.

“There was a group of us that were just so tight,” said Paul Schlange, who’s the father of WNCC infielder Kevin Schlange.

Paul said he became particularly tight with T.J. Wohlever’s father, Terry. Wohlever was a pitcher on the team. “Him and I would just root them on,” Paul said.

He also said WNCC became a popular team in Grand Junction. “The people that were there were cheering our team over some of the other teams,” Paul said.

The team may not realize what it has accomplished, yet, Paul said. “Just the whole experience was fantastic,” he said. “I couldn’t envision anything better. Every one of the boys on the team were fantastic.”

A testament to how close the team was came when relief pitcher Dan Grubbs turned down a scholarship to the University of Nevada last summer to return to WNCC. He played a key role in helping the Wildcats reach the World Series. Grubbs has signed to play next year at the University of New Mexico.

And it’s not too often that an award is named after a player who just ended his career and didn’t play that much. But Douglas High graduate Chad Walling, a sophomore, epitomized what the team was all about, so there was the Chad Walling Wildcat Award.

The award was given to pitcher Justin Garcia, who signed with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but could sign professionally if he’s taken high enough during the Major League draft on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“How are we going to replace these guys?” asked WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore when talking about his sophomores. “We’re going to have to look high and low and everywhere between to try to replace the character that these guys possess.”

When asked if going to the World Series has sunk in yet, Whittemore said, “Minute by minute. Teams spend 10 and 20 years trying to do this. Of course we’re going to try to make it a yearly thing, but there are great teams that stand in our way.”

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