It’s 104 days until the Division II National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball World Series begins in Enid.
The question in these parts is whether the Western Oklahoma State College Pioneers will make their sixth consecutive trip to the World Series.
Kurt Russell in his ninth year at the helm of the Western program has taken the previous five squads to the event, something no other team in the country can say.
His 2011 club won the national title. They were runners-up last season and had a third place team in 2010.
The answers will start to come in on Wednesday when the Pioneers travel to Forth Worth, Texas to play Northwood in a noon doubleheader. Western will play its first home game when the first of a four game series with Luna, New Mexico begins with a 1 p.m. game. The teams will play 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday and a single game at noon Sunday.
But maybe the answers won’t come that quickly because Russell takes a little bit different approach to the early portion of the season than many coaches do. He will use a platoon system for all of positions.
“It’s the formula that we’ve been using that I think works,” Russell said. “The guys don’t know what the lineup is going to be. We’re more working on developing our team throughout the season and have the best team we can possibly have at he end of the season.”
And certainly Russell want to win every time his team takes the field but that’s not a top priority.
“I’m not concerned with winning games early,” Russell said. “Especially when your playing with 14 guys, every other game is like the first game for guys. You have guys pressing a little bit and you have guys competing for a job. Some people already know what their club is. We are going to let our guys compete and that’s going to strengthen our bench down the road.”
Russell said he will rotate position players until the conference season begins.
Here’s a look at the team
Four players will be rotated on a three out of four game basis and if they are not playing in, they will come off the bench.
Centerfielder Sherman Lacrus returns. He hit .353 with four home run in his freshman year. Lacrus was drafted in the 40th round by the New York Yankees but elected to come back to Western for his sophomore season.
Willie Allen saw some playing time last year getting 40 at bats with a .400 batting average.
The rotation also includes promising freshmen Jose Fortuna and and Randy Rodriguez.
Three of those four are probably as fast as any in the country. They have 6.5 speed (in the 60 run).
Again four will be worked in on three out of four rotation at second base, third base and shortstop.
Ceazar Figueroa returns from last year. He hit seven home runs with an average of .318.
Rafeal Pena is another returnee who hit five home runs with a .385 average.
Two freshmen Jessue Alvarado and Hilden Rivas round out the rotation.
First basemen/Designated Hitter
There will be three in the rotation.
Randy Joung (pronounced Young) is back from a freshman season in which he hit for a .291 average with seven home runs.
A pair of freshmen Fraylyn Paez and Alnardo Rodriguez are in the rotation.
Scinarf Loopstock, a freshman, is a promising player. He possesses home run power in which the ball explodes off his bat.
Another freshmen Clementee Para will see a lot of playing time.
Casey Coyle, a transfer from the University of Oklahoma is also in the mix.
This could be the deepest pitching staff Western has ever had and it is filled with hard throwers.
Russell said since the schedule early is loaded, he will go with a six-man rotation.
At the top of the rotation are sophomores Edward Cruz and Felix Frias. Cruz whose fast ball has been clocked 90-94 MPH was 2-3 with an ERA of 5.59 in 2011 while Frias was 7-0 in 2011 with an ERA of 4.36.
“He (Cruz) had a great fall,” Russell said. “He’s one of the more talented arms we’ve had. He’s been the leader of the staff.”
Felix Frias was the number four guy and he had two starts in the World Series last year.”He’s made some big strides,” Russell said. “There’s a chance this could be the best one-two punch I’ve had.”
Figuereo could be ticketed for mound duty. He possesses a 91-95 mph fast ball and Russell says he has a “great slider.”
The number four guy is Martin Nolasco who is 91-94 mph two seam fast that has “great movement,” Russell said.
Juan Pablo Diaz (92-96), a transfer from San Jacinto Junior College, Texas and Alex Polanco (92-94) will be the other two starters.
There are seven that are set for bullpen duties.
The number one guy out of the bullpen will be Aneuris Rodriguez. The closer will be Victor Mendez who is coming off a good freshman year. In 2012 he was 4-1 with 11 saves and a 2.94 ERA.
Probably the most interesting is Jared Cook is a submarine style pitcher who is good at hitting his spots. Russell who does not have a left hander on his staff will use Cook like a left-hander because his pitchers break like a southpaw. “He’s got a some hump in his pitch. He’s a different look than anyone we have,” Russell said. “He’s going to be a ground ball, pop up guy. I’ve never used a guy like this. Our guys don’t like to hit off of him.”
Others in the pen include Joan (pronounce John) Pena, Alvarado, Kevin Torres and Carlos Ditren. All three can play a big role.
“We have real good team speed, real solid defensively and if we stay patient this could be the best hitting club we’ve had,” Russell said. “A lot of power with speed, a pretty good combination.”
That is saying a lot because four of the last five teams Russell has field has led the country in hitting and home runs. “It will be a good club, a fun club,” Russell added.
Pioneer notes: Russell could celebrate his 400th victory this season. In his previous eight seasons he has compiled a 353-152 mark (73 percent). Western enters the season as the second ranked team in the country. Defending national champion LSU-Eunice is ranked No. 1.
Name, position, height/weight, position, class, hometown
Hilden Rivas, 5-11, 165, Fr. ss/2b, Bronx, NY
Aneuris Rodriguez, 5-11, 145, Fr., N.Y., N.Y
Jessue Alvarado, 5-10, 170, Soph., ss/p, N.Y,N.Y.
Alnardo Rodriguez, 6-1, 195, Fr., 3b/1B, Bronx, N.Y.
Randy Rodriguez, 5-10, 180, Fr., 2b, N.Y., N.Y
Rapheal Pena, 5-10, 190, Soph., c-2b, Dominican Republic
Clemente Parra, 6-1, 195, Soph., c, Lynn, Mass.
Ceazar Figuereo, 6-1, 200, Soph, ss, 3B, p, Dominican Republic
Jose Fortuna, 5-11, 185, Fr., 2b/of, Lynn Mass.
Victor Mendez, 5-11, 170, p, Lawrence, Mass.
Sherman Lacrus, 5-11, 180, Soph., cf, c, p, Curacao
Signarf Loopstok, 5-11, 200, Fr. c, 3b, 2b, Aruba
Felix Frias, 6-1, 180, Soph. p, Lawrence, Mass.
Anel Sotolongo, 6-0, 190, Soph., 2b/3b, Coral Springs, Fla.
Carlos Ditren, 5-11, 180, Fr., p, Lawrence, Mass.
Juan Pablo Diaz, 6-0, 180, Soph., p, Lawrence, Mass.
Joan Pena, 6-0, 190, Fr., p, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Randy Joung, 6-0, 200, Soph., 1b, Aruba
Edward Cruz, 6-1,170, Soph., p, Bronx, N.Y.
Kevin Torres, 6-1, 185, Fr., p, N.Y., N.Y.
Martin Nolasco, 6-1, 175, Fr., Philadelphia, Pa.
Fraylin Paez, 6-1, 230, Fr. 1b/of, Bronx, N.Y.
Jared Cook, 6-0, 200, Soph., p, Dallas, Texas
Andujar Cedeno, 6-4, 200, Fr. 1b/of, Dominican Republic
Alex Polanco, 6-3,215, Fr., p, New Jersey
Willie Allen, 6-1,180, Soph., of/p, Mattapan, Maine
Victor Reyes, 6-3, 215, Soph., Puerto Rico
Casey Coyle, 5-10, 175, Fr., Oklahoma City
Jose Blanco, 6-0, 180, Fr., of/inf, Philadelphia, Pa.
Taylor Cross, 6-0, 185, Soph., p, Missouri
Victor Cuevas, 5-11, 185, Soph., Philadelphia, Pa.
Steven Durtche, 6-3, 215, Fr., of, Wyoming
Anyelvi Esteves, 6-2, 185, Fr. c-of, Philadelphia. Pa.
Evan Funkhouser, 5-11, 190, Fr., of, Hobart
Willie Grullion, 6-2, 165, Fr., p, N.Y., N.Y.
Joshua James, 6-3, 180, Soph., p/ss, Hollywood, Fla.
Tony Kobbe, 6-1, 200, Fr., p, Fort Pierce, Fla.
Jeklin Liranzo, 6-0, 200, Fr., c, N.Y., N.Y.
William Mora, 6-0, 250, Fr., 1b, Bronx, N.Y.
Luis Mota, 6-0, 230, Fr., 1b, Bronx, N.J.
Arbely Soto, 5-10, 180, Fr., of, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Derrick Taylor, 5-11, 185, Soph., of, Chicago, Ill.
Head coach: Kurt Russell
Assistants: Ferdinand (Freddy) Lopez (head assistant), Ramon Lora, James Rubi
Feb. 13, at Northwood, Forth Worth, Texas, DH, Noon
Feb. 15, Luna N. M, here,1 p.m.
Feb. 16, Luna, N.M., here, DH, 1 p.m.
Feb. 17, Luna, N.M., here, noon,
Feb. 18, Oklahoma Wesleyan, at Bartlesville, DH, 1 p.m.
Feb. 22, Coffeyville, here, 1 p.m.
Feb. 23, Coffeyville, here, 1 p.m.
Feb. 24, Coffeyville, here, 1 p.m.
Feb. 28, vs. Seminole at Edmond, 1 p.m.
Mar. 2, vs. Grayson at Tishomingo, 1 p.m.
Mar. 2, vs. Murray at Tishomingo, 4 p.m.
Mar. 5, Seminole, here, 1 p.m.
Mar. 8, Northwestern, here, DH, 1 p.m.
Mar. 9, at Northwestern, Alva, DH, 1 p.m.
Mar. 12, at Vernon, 2 p.m.
Mar. 14, vs. Redlands, at Chickasha, 1 p.m.
Mar. 18, vs. Northern-Tonkawa, at Edmond, 1 p.m.
Mar. 20, at Lubbock Christian, DH, 1 p.m.
Mar. 21, NMMI, at Roswell, N.M., DH, 1 p.m.
Mar. 24, vs. Eastern, DH at Edmond, 1 p.m.
Mar. 28, at Seminole, 1 p.m.
Apr. 2, Vernon, here, 2 p.m.
Apr. 6, Carl Albert, here, DH, 1 p.m.
Apr. 7, Carl Albert, here, DH, noon
Apr. 9, at Clarendon, Texas, 2 p.m.
Apr. 11, Northern-Tonkawa, here, DH, 1 p.m.
Apr. 13 at Northern-Tonkawa, DH, 1 p.m.
Apr. 16, Clarendon, Texas, here, 2 p.m.
Apr. 18, Northern-Enid, here, DH, 1 p.m.
Apr. 21. Northern-Enid, there, DH, 1 p.m.
Apr. 25, Redlands, at El Reno, DH, 1 p.m.
Apr. 27, Redlands, here, DH, 1 p.m.
May 2, Murray, here, DH, 1 p.m.
May 4, Murray, at Tishomingo, DH, 1 p.m.
May 9 start of Region 2 Tournament at Bartlesville