Faithful follow WNCC to Grand Junction
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Is it 7:30 p.m. local time yet?
It was easy to see the anticipation of the large contingent of family, friends, coaches and players associated with the Western Nevada Community College baseball team who came here for the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball World Series. The Grand Junction Rotary Club, who’s the host for WNCC while it’s here, hosted a picnic for all at 11:30 a.m. local time on Saturday. There was no question everyone there couldn’t wait for the team’s opener against Delgado Community College of New Orleans.
“You just want it to be 7:30 already,” WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “The practice and the talk, that’s all done. It’s just time to play. I feel just the way I want to feel.”
Whittemore said he feels like his team could be beaten but, at the same time, has the confidence it will win.
“There’s a nervousness and confidence,” Whittemore said. “It keeps you sharp.”
Before Saturday’s game, ace pitcher Cole Rohrbough, who took the mound, couldn’t wait. And his family members, who made the 18-hour trip by car from Medford, Ore., couldn’t wait, either.
“Why go 18 hours to watch baseball?” said Rick Rohrbough, Cole’s father. “You’ve got to be there, no matter what. Eighteen hours and glad to do it.
“Not too many families can say they’ve watched their son or daughter play in the College World Series.”
Or as Rohrbough’s grandfather, Gene Nicks, put it, “We’re totally excited to be here.”
Rick and his wife, Tamara Rohrbough, admitted they were going to be nervous when watching their son pitch.
“It will be nerve wracking but he’ll do well,” Tamara said. “It will be exciting.”
For his part, Rohrbough seemed to have the right combination of being relaxed and nerves before his start.
“Oh, man, ever since we made it, I’ve been mentally preparing for it and visualizing it,” Rohrbough said. “Obviously there’s nerves.
“Once I get through the first inning I think I’m going to be fine. I’ve just got to remember what I’ve been doing all year. Tonight’s going to be exciting, a real great atmosphere. No matter how much you build it up, you can’t build it up enough.”
WNCC assistant coach Kevin Edwards said he’s never been to Omaha, Neb., for the NCAA Division I College World Series but imagines Grand Junction rivals that, saying it has exceeded his expectations. He also said there’s similarities between Grand Junction and Carson City with the high desert, elevation and how the wind blows. He said he hoped that would work to the Wildcats’ advantage.
“This is like Carson City,” Edwards said. “This is a baseball town. We think Carson City is a baseball town.”
Edwards said he also enjoyed Friday’s banquet, which featured the Golden Anniversary all World Series team, which is in its 50th year. Among those on the team is former Minnesota Twins great, the late Kirby Puckett.
Among those most responsible for the establishment of the WNCC program was the school’s vice president, Helaine Jesse.
“I’m very proud to be a part of it,” Jesse said. She also said if the team keeps doing what it has been doing, “They have a chance to go all the way. That’s my prediction, anyway.”
Bill Garcia, pitcher Justin Garcia’s father, has been through this before with his son. His son helped lead Sierra Vista High in Las Vegas to Nevada’s 4A state baseball title in its fourth year. Now in its second year, Garcia has helped lead WNCC to the Juco World Series.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is to put yourselves in a position like this,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s son will start the second game here. Though normally not nervous when his son pitches, since it is the World Series, he said, “I’ll be a nervous wreck.”
A representative for the Grand Junction Rodeo Club said if WNCC plays with the passion it practiced with on Friday, the Wildcats would win it all. Harvey Whittemore, D.J.’s father, has seen that passion first-hand in his son.
“I’m proud of all my kids,” Harvey said. “D.J.’s obviously a very special person. All my kids are. The first thing you say is how lucky and blessed you are.
“You see a lot of passion (in D.J.). You see it in his kids (and coaches). It makes you proud to see the people of Carson City and Northern Nevada support the program as much as we did.”
• Contact Charles Whisnand at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1214.
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