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JUCO World Series Preview - Saints in Grand Junction

JUCO World Series Preview - Saints in Grand Junction

May 26, 2016

Gainesville, FL – It was a whirlwind seven days for the Santa Fe Saints in Lakeland, FL last week, seeing them win their third FCSAA Championship, clinching a spot in the NJCAA JUCO World Series.  It took two wins over national powerhouse Chipola, including a walk off win, and a come from behind win in the title game, but the Saints came out victorious for the first time since 2009.

Santa Fe arrived in Colorado today and will have a little less than two days to adapt to the altitude change before taking on three time National Champions Iowa Western Community College in the first game of the tournament on Saturday, May 28 at 11:00 AM EST (9:00 AM MST).  Leaving Gainesville, FL where 151 feet is the highest elevation and heading off to Grand Junction, CO, nearly a mile high at 4,953 feet, will provide some challenges, but one the Saints are up for.

Santa Fe enters the tournament with a 42-8 record and a .311 team batting average, having played through the toughest NJCAA region in the country to earn their spot.  First baseman Hugo Valdes leads the way with a .370 batting average and seven homeruns with 42 RBI.  Catcher Matt Allen, fresh off a FCSAA Tournament MVP showing in Lakeland is hitting .339 with five homeruns and 43 RBI.  Three of his five HR came at the FCSAA Tournament, all against Chipola.

Trent Johnson leads a deep pitching staff that currently sports a 3.53 ERA and strikes out a batter an inning.  Johnson recently set the school record for career wins with 17 and is just eight strikeouts shy of the school record for K's.  Troy Bacon anchors the back end of the bullpen and has recorded a school record 15 saves thus far with a 1.02 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 44 innings.

SF may very well be facing their toughest test of the tournament in the first round when they battle three time JUCO World Series Champions Iowa Western (2010, 2012, 2014).  The Reivers are hitting a robust .383 as a team and bring a 50-13 record in to Grand Junction. Pacing the offense is sophomore Jared Gates.  Gates leads IW with a .434 average with eight homeruns and 60 RBI.  Three other regulars hit over .400, and every regular starter has a batting average over .350.

Jacob Niggemeyey leads a Reivers pitching staff that has compiled a 4.25 ERA.  Niggemeyer is 10-1 with a 2.23 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched.

This year's edition of the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series – also known as the JUCO World Series – will take place May 28 – June 4 at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colorado. Through the partnership with MLBAM, MLB.com will produce and air the live, HD broadcast of the tournament's championship on June 3 and June 4 (if necessary). In the booth for MLB.com will be MLB Network's Scott Braun and four-time World Series champion Jeff Nelson. In addition, Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster Daron Sutton will provide in-depth interviews of players, coaches and tournament representatives.

"The NJCAA has a great, long-standing partnership with Major League Baseball and the addition of having the organization's premier baseball championship airing live on MLB.com only exemplifies that relationship," commented NJCAA Executive Director Mary Ellen Leicht. "The additional exposure and attention our student-athletes and member colleges will receive as part of this opportunity is very exciting and valuable. On behalf of the NJCAA Board of Directors and member colleges, I want to thank Commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff for their support of the NJCAA."

The JUCO World Series has a storied history of featuring future MLB talent. Since 1985, more than 70 players that participated in the tournament have suited up for an MLB club, including 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper (Southern Nevada – 2010), Cy Young Award winners Eric Gagne (Seminole State, Okla. – 1995) and Cliff Lee (Meridian, Miss. – 1998) in addition to two-time World Series champions Brandon Belt (San Jacinto, Texas - 2007) and John Lackey (Grayson County, Texas – 1999).

Along with the live MLB.com broadcasts of the national title games of this year's JUCO World Series, live video broadcasts of all games beginning May 28 to June 2 will be available on NJCAA TV (www.njcaatv.com) – the official digital video network of the NJCAA. 

Live video of games 1-17: NJCAA TV

Listen live to every game: The Team 1340AM

Fans can follow live stats from every game here: baseball live stats

Portions of this release courtesy the NJCAA

For complete schedules, stats, and more information please visit www.santafesaints.com.  

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