Road Warriors – Kellogg CC Baseball Heads to Oklahoma for National Title Shot
It was a wet start to their Wednesday morning, just like it was two years ago when they hopped on the long-distance bus to Oklahoma to vie for a championship.
Unlike the expectations that came from the 2019 visit to Oklahoma after the Kellogg Community College Bruins baseball team had heading in from a Michigan Community College Athletic Association West Division and MCCAA title, the 2021 edition of the Bruins had some work to do to make the trip.
After being shut out in the opener of best-of-three National Junior College Athletic Association's Region XII Championship 4-0, the Bruins jumped out quickly and needed a walk-off single to earn a 4-3 victory over the Lansing Community College Stars on May 21st, forcing a deciding third game the following day against the top-ranked team in the nation in NJCAA Division II.
The Bruins battled back three times in the finale to defeat the Stars 14-9. Trailing 9-5 heading into the final inning, KCC went on a nine-run tear that shed the hopes of Lansing CC's first NJCAA Division II World Series appearance since 2017. The Stars suffered just three losses on the 2021 campaign with two to the Bruins.
Off to Enid, Oklahoma, go the Bruins for the eighth time in school history with a chance to win the national championship that still has escaped the successful program at Kellogg. With runner-up honors in 1999 and 2007, the Bruins best finish since was fourth in 2011.
The format remains the same as in the 2019 tournament - a double-elimination format among 10 teams with the top two seeds receiving opening byes. The byes went to #1 Louisiana State University-Eunice (ranked second in the national in NJCAA in Division II) and #2 Lincoln Land (IL) Community College (ranked fourth in the nation).
Kellogg received the fourth seed and will take on Madison (WI) College on Saturday, May 29th. The Bruins are one of six nationally-ranked squads still in action (including Madison). Three others are honorable mentions. The surprise has been Lackawanna (PA) Community College, who were able to scrounge up a successful schedule without holding conference games in the Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference.
The Bruins are ranked 24th in team hitting nationally at .321 on the season. Among the remaining teams, that puts them middle-of-the-pack at fifth. One statistic the Bruins thrive on is triples, where they are tied with Lincoln Land with 21 three-baggers among the teams remaining. They also make contact, striking out the second-least among the teams remaining at 258 in 46 games. Phoenix (AZ) College only has 20 Ks less.
The Bruins leading hitter is outfielder Tate Petersen (Grandville), who battled .447 on the season, playing in all but one of KCC's contests. He hold the third-best batting average among the players remaining. His on-base percentage of .534 is fifth-best.
Where the Bruins don't fair as well among the remaining teams on offense, the pitching makes up for it. Kellogg has the third-best earned run average out the World Series squads at 3.92 (Madison is at 3.53 and Western Oklahoma State is a 3.66). Those three teams encompass the top four nationally this season (Lansing was second nationally). The Bruins also have allowed the second-least amount of walks with 122 (Frederick Community College is at 108 to lead the teams remaining).
The best hurler for the Bruins is Jayden Dentler (Otsego), who holds a 2.54 ERA out of the bullpen. He has also made two spot starts in 11 appearances, striking out 80 batters in 56 2/3 innings.
The bullpen is solid for Kellogg, who also has Zachary Marshall (Rockford) and Al Thorington (Pinckney). Marshall has a 3.31 ERA in 12 relief appearances, tossing 49 innings. Thorington is 10-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 13 appearances. He also has three starts, including the Region XII finale against Lansing (got a no decision).
Good luck to the Bruins on another successful run for a national title. We'll keep you posted on all the action from the Sooner State on 95.3 WBCK.