Johnson County Community College
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Tyler Cundith, sports information director, ext. 3122
Baseball - 2018 JCCC baseball season preview
Baseball - 2018 JCCC baseball season preview
One sign of a solid NJCAA baseball program comes when a team loses many fine players to graduation, yet still manages to continue its winning ways. Head coach Kent Shelley has mastered the revolving door of players at the community college level during his 30 seasons, amassing 971 wins, including eight seasons of 40-plus victories.
Johnson County is coming off a 46-16 record, a runner-up finish in the East Jayhawk Conference and expectations are high for the program again entering the 2018 season, and the Cavaliers look to make another deep run in the playoffs. Johnson County opens the season ranked 17th in the NJCAA preseason poll.
Shelley returns 11 players from last year’s squad, including seven starting position players and one pitcher. Shelley will also have the services of four all-conference performers; outfielder Chaz Burgess, catcher Jake Karst, designated hitter/first baseman Tanner Padgett and outfielder/first baseman Brian Sullivan.
Burgess actually earned his all-conference honorable mention designation following the 2016 season. He suffered an injury shortly before the start of last season, but he fully recovered and ready to be key cog in the lineup and top defensive outfielder for the Cavaliers. In 2016, he hit .308 (57-for-185) with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs, 38 runs scored and 32 RBI. He also had 16 multiple-hit games and eight multiple-RBI games.
Karst, an honorable mention selection last year, hit .325 (62-for-191) with 16 doubles, four triples, three home runs, 36 driven in and 56 runs scored. He also collected 15-multiple-hit games and nine multiple-RBI games.
Padgett was a first-team selection and second-team All-Region VI pick. He batted .382 (86-for-225) with 14 doubles, a triple, 16 home runs, 53 runs scored and 61 RBI. His 86 hits led the team and ranked fourth in the conference and 14th in the NJCAA. His 16 homers tied for the team lead and fifth in the conference. His 86 hits are the most ever hit by a freshman, and tie the second-most in a season in team history. He produced 26 multiple-hit games, including a five-hit effort, and 18 multiple-RBI games, including a six-RBI effort.
Sullivan, a second-team selection, capped his freshman year leading the Cavaliers with a .407 batting average (57-for-140). He also collected 11 doubles, a triple, two home runs, 39 RBI and 37 runs. His numbers would have been even better, but he suffered an injury in mid-April that kept him out of the lineup until the first round of the Region VI playoffs. Despite missing 15 games, Sullivan still produced 16 multiple-hit games and nine multiple-RBI games.
Other starters back include infielder Ty Herrenbruck, infielder Matt Johnson, pitcher Brad Kincaid and outfielder Daonte’ Lowery.
Herrenbruck, like Burgess, is back this season after sitting out with a medical redshirt in 2017. As a starter in 2016, Herrenbruck batted .315 (56-for-178) with 35 runs, nine doubles, a triple, six home runs and 41 RBI. He had 15 multiple-hit games and 10 multiple-RBI games.
Johnson made a big impact last season, especially with his glove at second base. He posted a .954 fielding percentage, committing only 11 errors in 237 fielding chances. At the plate, Johnson hit .211 (35-for-166) with eight doubles, three triples, three home runs, 36 runs and 30 driven in. He also swiped 11 bases, third-most on the team.
Kincaid is expected to be the Cavaliers No. 1 in the starting rotation this season, after making 18 appearances with four starts a year ago. He finished 3-0 with an earned run average of 3.57 with 49 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched. Shelley describes Kincaid possessing a bulldog mentality when he takes the mound and likes to attack the zone.
Lowery is a speedy outfielder that can really get out and get in the outfield and is able to put a lot of pressure on the defense with his speed. An honorable mention all-conference selection last year, Lowery batted .317 (51-for-161) with seven doubles, two triples, a home run, 36 runs and 31 driven in. He also tied for the team lead with 13 stolen bases. Lowery registered 12 multiple-hit games and seven multiple-RBI games.
The other returning players are utility player Connor Schumacher, catcher Nick Sueppel, and pitcher Colton VanVleck.
Schumacher has the most experience of those three returnees. He saw action in 38 games, including 13 times in the starting lineup. He hit .217 (13-for-60) with a double, a triple, two home runs, 17 runs scored and eight driven in. He had three multi-hit games, and two multi-RBI games. He also posted a .975 fielding percentage, committing just one error in 40 fielding chances.
Sueppel saw limited action in 2017, but he is expected to have a bigger impact this season. He played in 11 games and 13 plate appearances. He hit .231 (3-for-13) with a triple and two runs driven in and four runs scored.
VanVleck made 13 appearances on the hill, all in relief. He logged 19 innings, with 14 strikeouts. He posted earned run average of 2.84 and finished 2-0 with one save.
Also back in infielder Evan Bergman after receiving a medical redshirt last year. He was injured after playing in just seven games. He hit .500 (4-for-8) with a double, three runs driven and three runs scored in his limited action. Now healthy, Bergman should see action in the infield this season.
Shelly also added the services of MCC-Maple Woods transfer Bailey Jelinek. In his freshman season with the Monarchs, Jelinek played in 42 game, 39 as a starter, and hit .230 (28-for-122) with four doubles, three home runs, 17 runs scored and 19 driven in. He also had seven multiple-hit games, and five multiple-RBI games. Prior to playing baseball for Maple Woods, Jelinek attended the University of Central Missouri on a football scholarship as a punter and wide receiver in 2015, but did not play.
Twenty freshman have also been added to the 2018 roster, and each will have an opportunity to compete for playing time, particularly the pitchers.
One newcomer pitcher that will be thrown into the fire immediately is right-hander Zachery Ebert from Washburn Rural in Topeka, Kan. Ebert was one of the top pitchers in the state, and he etched is name in the Washburn Rural record books alongside the likes of professionals Aaron Crow and Blair Johnson. As a senior, Ebert was named the 2017 High School Player of the Year in Shawnee County, and the Centennial League and the City League Pitcher of the Year. He also was a Kansas Baseball Coaches Association Class 6A All-State first-team selection. He posted a career mark of 16-1 with 112 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched.
Right-hander Davis Ernsdorf of St. James Academy in Lenexa, Kan., is also projected to be in the starting rotation, possibly as the Cavaliers’ number four starter. He was a second-team All-Eastern League pick as a utility player his senior year. He set team highs with 15 RBI, three home runs, 20 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 20.2 innings pitched and 24 strikeouts.
From the other side of the hill, left-hander Josh Short of Wichita, Kan., and Maize High School is penciled in as the third starter in the rotation. He was a two-time 5A All-State selection by the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association. He also was twice selected first-team All-Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League and named to the Wichita Eagle All-Metro Team and to the All-USA Kansas Baseball team as a senior. He was 8-1 with 65 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.72 as a junior, and 7-1 with 55 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.82 as a senior.
Another right-hander that could get some spot starts and work in the back of the bullpen is Cam Wynne of Lincoln High in Lincoln, Neb. Wynne was named first-team All-State, All-City and All-Heartland Athletic Conference his senior year. He finished 3-5 with 45 strikeouts in 33.1 innings with an ERA of 1.34. At the plate he hit .364 with 31 hits, seven doubles, 13 RBI and 17 runs.
Working out of the bullpen will be Dylan Bierman of Metro Christian in Tulsa, Okla.; Chase Hampton of Maize South; Jared Robins of Rockhurst High; A.J. Shaw of Hayden in Topeka, Kan.; and another A.J. Shaw of Waukee in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Bierman was selected All-State by the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman his senior year, along with first-team Pinnacle Conference and SACN All-Area honors. He helped lead Metro Academy to its first state title in 16 years by allowing just two hits and seven strikeouts in a 4-0 win in the title game. He hurled three no-hitters, including two perfect games, over his career, and finished with a 25-3 record with 171 strikeouts over 162.2 innings. He was also an all-state quarterback, throwing for over 3,400 years and 44 touchdowns his junior and senior years.
Hampton was a two-time All-State and All-Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League selection while helping Maize South win the Kansas 4A-I state title his senior year. He finished the season 5-1 with an ERA of 1.98 and 43 strikeouts. He set the school strikeout record as a junior with 45.
Robins is an athletic kid that can reach the upper 80s with his fastball. He played one season at Rockhurst, and helped the Hawklets win a District title. He also played summer ball for the KC Bullets.
The Kansas born Shaw was selected 4A-I All-State by the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association and named second-team All-City his junior and senior years. He helped Hayden three straight Class 4A D-I state tournament appearances, including a state title his sophomore year and a runner up finish as a junior. He was also an all-conference linebacker his senior year while helping the Wildcats to a state runner-up finish.
The Shaw from Iowa possesses a tough arm slot that will be difficult to hit. He projected to be the first pitcher out of the pen and could see some spot starts. Shaw helped Waukee qualify for the Iowa State Tournament both of his varsity seasons. He finished his junior year with a 1.25 ERA and held opponents to a batting average of .192, and earned honorable mention All-State. He was injured during his senior season, but still posted a 2-1 record with 16 strikeouts in 15.1 innings.
Around the infield and behind the plate Shelley has added catcher Reid Briney and infielder Chris Esposito of Blue Valley Southwest; infielder Mason Hartman of Maize; catcher/infielder Traice Hartter of Seamon in Topeka, Kan.; infielder Blake Shannon of Metro Christian in Tulsa, Okla.; infielder Kyle Stringer of Labette County in Altamont, Kan.; and infielder Malik Williams of Satec @ W.A. Porter Institute in Toronto, Ontario.
Briney was a two-time All-Eastern Kansas League, earning honorable mention as a sophomore and senior. He helped the Timberwolves win the 2015 Kansas 5A State Championship, and he hit .352 with 28 hits, six doubles a home run, 15 RBI and 14 runs his senior campaign.
Esposito was a member of the Washburn University baseball team last fall but transferred back to the area for his freshman spring season. He was a first-team Kansas Class 5A All-State and second-team American Family All-USA Kansas Baseball team as a junior. He was also a two-time All-Eastern Kansas League selection. He hit .400 with four doubles, a triple, two homers and 15 RBI his junior season, and .280 with four doubles, two triples, a home run and 11 RBI as a senior.
Hartman was a two-time Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League shortstop. He finished his senior season with a batting average of .385 with 27 hits, five doubles, one triple, 16 RBI, 33 runs and 27 stolen bases to help the Eagles to a 5A State Championship. He hit .325 his junior year.
Hartter, who led the Cavaliers in hitting during the fall, was a three-time All-Centennial League infielder and ranked among the city leaders in batting average, RBI and stolen bases his senior year. He was part of four straight regional championship teams and a state runner-up finish in 2015.
Shannon helped Metro Christian claim its first Oklahoma state title in 16-years his senior season, and finish runner-up his junior year. He earned first-team Pinnacle All-Conference, All-District, second-team All-State and All-Area Metro his junior and senior years. He also earned PG High School All-American honorable mention and was among the All-Vype Oklahoma Top 100 both years as well. He hit .385 with 40 hits, eight doubles, a triple, 22 RBI, 15 stolen bases and 42 runs in 2016, and hit at a .354 clip with 33 hits, eight doubles, three triples, a home run, 23 RBI, 20 steals and 42 runs as a senior. He also selected the Metro Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017.
Stringer may possess the rawest power at the plate on the roster this season. As a sophomore, Stringer was selected second-team All-State by the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association and was a three-time Southeast Kansas League performer. He was also named to the Craw-Kan Southeast Kansas All-Area team following his senior season. Stringer set Labette County’s single season home run and RBI records his sophomore year, and ended his career as the school’s all-time home run leader.
Williams joined the Cavaliers after the winter break after attending Odessa College in Texas last fall. He possesses a large build and outstanding strength and looks to make a big impact his spring. A native of Toronto, Ontario, Williams was selected as a Rawlings-Perfect Game honorable mention All-American in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and was selected to the Canada/Puerto Rico All-Region first-team in 2017. He helped his team win the 2016 Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series, and he hit .430 and led his team in RBI at the Regional Tournament.
The newcomers in the outfield include Jacob Owens of St. James Academy in Shawnee, Kan., and Tino Zach of Elkhorn South in Omaha, Neb. Owens originally signed with Missouri, possesses some of the best baseball tools that the coaches have seen in a while at JCCC. As junior, Owens was selected honorable mention Class 5A All-State by the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association. He hit .393 with 25 hits, seven doubles, two triples, 11 RBI and 25 runs. He batted .413 with 26 hits, four doubles, 10 RBI, nine stolen bases and 19 runs as a sophomore.
Zach has a thunderous bat from the left side and has made great strides since arriving at JCCC. He helped Elkhorn South qualify for the Nebraska Class B State Tournament his senior year, driving in a run in the Storm’s 4-2 win over Omaha Skutt in the District final. He was selected to play in the annual Collin-Orcutt All-Star Game and was named honorable mention All-Eastern Midland Conference that season. Zach hit .366 with 37 hits, six doubles, one triple, two home runs, 28 RBI and 25 runs.
The Cavaliers open their season at home Feb. 8 and 14 against Rockhurst University JV, followed by four-game series with Ellsworth Community College and Kirkwood Community College. Johnson County will open East Jayhawk Conference play against defending conference and region champion and No. 4 ranked Cowley College at home on March 1, followed by two more against the Tigers in Arkansas City on March 3.
“We can look good on paper and have all this talent, but I remind the kids that we still have not won a game this season,” said Shelley. “With that said, I do believe we have a chance to be good at some point during the season. We’ve set our bar extremely high, and we are working to win a conference and region titles and return to the World Series and bring home our program’s first national title. If the stars align, we have an opportunity.”