Bryce Harper “caught like a champion” in JUCO World Series debut

College of Southern Nevada won their first game at the JUCO World Series Saturday 13-5 over Pitt CC (North Carolina) from Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, CO.

Sophomore Donn Roach struck out 11 batters and allowed only three unearned runs over eight innings to notch the win.

17-year old Bryce Harper went two-for-four with three runs scored, a walk and a strikeout.

Southern Nevada (50-14) will play Faulkner State on Monday afternoon at 4:00 pm. Eastern.

During the team’s scheduled day off Sunday, Coach Tim Chambers checked in to update us on the Coyotes progress in the world series.

How did Bryce do Saturday?

“He caught very well. He felt good at the plate and threw well.

The best Bryce story from the first day was when some reporters started their questions with “even though Bryce didn’t have a great game....” I was like, “huh???”

“Bryce went 2 for 4 with 3 runs, a walk and a stolen base. He caught like a champion and I thought he was great.”

Then a reporter responded, “yeah, but he didn’t hit a homer”

Chambers retorted, “He didn’t hit a home run. My bad.”

Chambers said Bryce was key to the win in the 8th inning rally that won the game 13-5 for something that doesn’t show up in the box score.

“Bryce did his part to help us win. After getting on base, Bryce stole second and then went to third on a wild pitch. Then a single scored Bryce to walk him off. His hustle sparked us.”

Under the JUCO world series rules, leading by eight runs after seven innings, the game is called.

“He was flying around the yard last night. It has been fun to watch him grow, learn and mature.”

We took the wind out of Pitt CC because every time every time they scored we came back with crooked numbers.”

Both teams were a little nervous early on with the big crowd. Chambers estimated around 10,500 in attendance. “We didn’t get really cracking until the 4th or 5th inning.”

Coyotes outfielder Trevor Kirk had a good game. Chambers says “Trevor has been good since Salt Lake. He missed eight weeks with an injury. But yesterday he blew a guy up at the plate and went something like 3 for 5 with 4 RBI.”

Trent Cook has also been “really swinging it good.”

Do Bryce’s teammates ever get jealous of his early notoriety?

“Absolutely not. They have known Bryce for a long time. These guys are all older and are the leaders of our team. They all said ‘let’s embrace him’.”

Chambers told me he thought Bryce would do well on his own, but at 17, would still have a lot of people around him early on in his pro career.

Chambers also brought up the possibility of the Nationals taking Bryce’s older brother, lefthander Bryan Harper, in the later rounds next week.

“They might take him earlier than some may think. I agree that would be really cool.”

With Bryan all of 21 years of age, he could look out for his younger brother, as he has this year at Southern Nevada.

I asked Coach Chambers about going back to aluminum bats for the JUCO world series and he said that was not an advantage for his team. The Coyotes use wood bats in the Scenic West conference, while most of the country still swings aluminum.

While Bryce rolled using aluminum last week in Lamar, CO at Districts (hitting for the cycle in one game, then four homers and 10 RBI in another), Chambers says he actually can hit better with the heavier bat.

“Bryce hits better with wood. He hits them just as far.”

In planning for the tournament and having an off day today, I asked Chambers if he worked out his team Sunday.

“I was going to work out today. But I thought with so much travel, we are not going to get better today. I felt giving them the day off would do them some good.”

Did you have anxiety before the first game of the JUCO world series Saturday?

“I am mellow now. You got anxious because the day was so long. The unknown is tough. You don’t know what to expect.

I didn’t want to feel rushed. We like to have one hour to prepare on the field before we play and I knew from 2003 (last time they were here and won it all) that that wasn’t going to happen.

So I had them sitting in the bus ready to go so we could get that one hour to get ready. We watched a highlight video at the main gate. Their heads were bobbin’. I knew they were ready.

The crowd in Grand Junction has been great. They like us because we are from the west. They were up 1-0 early, then Marve (Marvin Campbell) hit a home run. When it left the park the crowd went crazy and it made your hair stand up.”

Chambers told me that his coaching staff was scouting Sunday’s games as his team prepares to face Faulkner in game two Monday.

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