Surry receives at-large bid to College World Series
For the first time since 1998, the Surry Knights are headed to the College World Series.
Surry Community College’s baseball team officially accepted an invitation Tuesday to play on the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) biggest stage as one of two schools to receive an at-large bid. The Knights had a banner season in 2017, winning the Region X regular season and tournament championships for the first time since 2004.
Surry (29-22-1) advanced to the District D Championship for a best two-of-three series against Prince George’s Community College with an automatic berth in the College World Series on the line. The Knights fell in the third of three tight games Saturday. They learned Tuesday they would be moving on anyway after a second at-large berth opened up due to an altercation in another district championship that resulted in both teams being disqualified. To head coach Tim Collins and a team that hadn’t had a winning season in seven years, all that matters is Surry is headed to the big dance.
“The players are really excited. Some had already gone home for the summer. We asked them how many wanted to come back and they all said, ‘We are going to the World Series, coach,’” Collins said. “How many people can say in their life they played in the College World Series?”
The Knights certainly enter the College World Series with an impressive resume. Surry finished the season ranked No. 11 in the nation in the final NJCAA poll of the season. After starting the year 2-10, SCC won 27 of its last 39 games en route to sweeping the Region X Player of the Year (Jordan Huntley), Pitcher of the Year (Matthew Lambert) and Coach of the Year (Tim Collins) awards.
“It’s been a good year. Coach (Mark) Tucker took them to the College World Series one other time in 1998 so it is a pretty big accomplishment,” Collins said. “We’ve had a lot of good recognition this year. It’s been good for the program, good for the school, it helps in recruiting, and coaches that wouldn’t even call me last year are now calling me wanting to play. It opens up some doors and it is good for the college to show what Surry Community College has to offer. Besides outstanding academic programs, we also have a quality athletic program as well..”
The Surry fans that traveled to the Region X Tournament in droves will enjoy another chance to support their team. The College World Series will be held this year at Pioneer Park in Greeneville, Tennessee, less than a three-hour drive from Dobson.
“It’s about the same trip as going to play at Danville. It’s not bad at all, so I am sure we will have a good support system there,” Collins said.
The College World Series will be held from May 27-June 1 at Pioneer Park, the home of the Greeneville Astros. As the eight-seed, Surry will open the College World Series on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against top-seeded Cumberland County and its gaudy 53-6 record.
“They are the number one team in the nation, but we might as well play them first,” Collins said. “We have to beat them at some point, so we might as well play them when we have everybody fresh. It will be a great challenge.”
Taking on challenges has been one of Surry’s strengths this year. Playing one of the toughest non-region schedules in the nation, the Knights faced off against two teams that qualified for the College World Series last year as well as bigger schools like Lenoir Rhyne.
“We told them we are not going to back down from anybody. We play the toughest schedule we can because it only makes you better,” Collins said. “I’ve always told them you can learn as much or more from a loss as you can from a win. We started 2-10 and they never gave up. They knew we were right there and then we hit a hot streak and turned it around.”
Collins credits much of the success of this year’s team to its attitude. All year, Surry has bought into the team concept and not worried about individual statistics. They’ve also displayed great character on and off the field, Collins said.
“They set a goal to go to the World Series and I am happy for them. Going into the preseason we talked about it, we are like everybody else and our goal is to go to the World Series,” Collins said. “We told them we had to win the region and accomplish some things to get there. We set out a plan of what we wanted and they have accomplished all of it. And I want to thank Dr. Shockley and the college administrative staff. The entire college has been so supportive all year.”
Seeding for the eight-team, double-elimination tournament is as follows: No. 1 Cumberland County, N.J. (53-5), No. 2 Niagara County, N.Y. (43-8), No. 3 Tyler, Texas (37-20), No. 4 Century, MN. (33-12), No. 5 Northampton, Pa. (34-7), No. 6 Prince George’s, Md. (33-13-1), No. 7 Delta, Mi. (34-21), No. 8 Surry (29-22-1). More information about this year’s College World Series can be found at http://www.njcaa.org/sports/bsb/2016-17/div3/national_championship/index online.
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