The Tyler Junior College Apaches championship baseball team has gotten off to a rocky start, but that does not mean they will not repeat this year.
In conference play their record is 5-7, which is more losses now then they had all last season but it is still early and they have many more games to play.
Coach John Groth believes that they are in a very difficult conference and what makes it even harder is that everybody wants to beat the number one team, that not only has the championship title under their belt, but also has bragging rights until some team is bold enough to take them away from them.
The expectations that Coach Groth has for his championship team is always higher than they were the previous year.
“Whenever you do something special the bar is set higher. I have been coaching here 15 years and winning a championship is always our goal,” said Groth. “With this tough conference we have to have higher expectations if we expect to repeat.”
None of his expectations have changed so far simply because they play more than 50 games in a season and are third of the way through the season.
“You do not have to be the best to beat the best,” said Groth.
Groth is pleased with the team’s performance thus far. The last conference game the Apaches were down in the last inning, and with two outs left they were able to come back and win.
At the beginning of the fall 2007 semester an incident occurred that caused 11 players to miss the first 14 games of the season, which hurt the team because among those 11 were a few of the players that were on last year’s championship team.
Coach Groth was very disappointed in them for making mistakes and breaking the team rules.
“Winning is not everything. I believe in integrity over winning,” said Groth.
The team hosted the NJCAA World Series last year, competed in it and won the championship.
“Fifteen years of coaching we have gone to the playoffs plenty of times, but last year was our first World Series and being able to host it and win it made us very excited”, said Groth.
Team member Payton Diers died Oct. 8, 2007 after a fatal car accident. The team agrees he was great player, friend and role model to many people.
“We will honor Diers by the way we play,” said Groth. “Life can be snuffed out in a heartbeat and you have to make the most of each day. I have a great group of kids who devote every day to Diers, and I can say I am proud to be their coach.”
Freshman Colby Welsh a pitcher out of Weatherford, is very excited to be apart of a championship team known around the U.S.
“I have to keep working hard,” said Welsh. “Everybody here is good enough to play, it just depends on how bad you want it… If I could give Payton one final message it would be, I wish you were here pitching with us.”
Mike McCollum is a shortstop out of Beaumont, is honored to be apart of the team that took the NJCCA World Series title his freshman year.
“This is a good group of guys that I get to play with,” said McCollum. “We are starting out pretty slow but I feel like there will be a turn around real soon… If I could give one final message to Payton it would be we miss you and love you, it is not the same out here without you wish you were here.”