MCC Baseball looks to contend for Empire League title
The McCook Community College baseball team gets the season started in Dallas Monday, with four games against North Lake College. The first games scheduled for Friday were pushed back to Monday with a doubleheader to start the season with a second doubleheader Tuesday.
MCC is coming off a 28-28 season a year ago under 17-year coach Jon Olsen, and a 17-17 record in the Empire League North Division, which was good for third place. The team went to Lamar, Colo. for the first round of the Region IX playoffs and lost 2-1 to Lamar in a three-game series.
MCC returns its entire starting outfield for the 2023 season, two starting pitchers, and eight second-year players as the team.
Olsen believes the Empire League with Southeast Community College, Western Nebraska, and Northeastern Junior College will once again be highly competitive.
Southeast ran away with the division last season going 29-5 -- 11 games better than second place NJC, 12 better than MCC and 13 better than Western Nebraska.
“Southeast did lose all of their position players but I know their coach is excited about their pitching staff,” Olsen said.
“It’s always hard to judge, but I know Western likes their team, NJC likes their team and I like ours – but everybody likes their team in January,” he said.
Olsen said the Covid years really created a lot of uncertainty with players granted an extra year of eligibility.
“It’s nice to get back to a good mix of freshman and sophomores. There were some good things about having third-year guys,” Olsen said, adding it was different for him after 20-some years of having a player for one or two years, which he said is more of his comfort zone.
“We have some good returners and some really talented freshmen, I’m excited for the season,” Olsen said.
The strength of the 2023 squad will be the in the outfield.
“We have all three of our starters from last year back,” said Olsen.
That trio includes: Ethan Murdock (Swift Current, Saskatchewan), Riley Watson (Sydney, Austrtalia) and Josh Maysonave (Austin, Texas).
Murdoch batted .315 in 44 games with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs. He was named all Region IX honorable mention as well as Omaha World-Herald all-Nebraska JUCO honorable mention.
“He sustained season-ending Tommy John surgery, so he’ll play DH and outfield, but he’ll be big for us again in the No. 3 spot in the order,” Olsen aid. “And Josh will probably bat cleanup.”
Maysonave batted .333 with seven homers and 28 RBI in 40 games while Watson appeared in 40 games hitting .281 with four homeruns and in centerfield had two errors in 84 chances and a .976 fielding percentage.
“Riley is an excellent defender and he’ll hit anywhere in the lineup from 2-6,” Olsen said.
MCC will have outfield depth with sophomores Trent Elshire (Plattsmouth) and Daegen Morcom, (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Morcom appeared in 15 games and had two home runs and seven RBIs while Elshire appeared in eight games
“Trent came on to start some games when Murdock went down and Daegen redshirted a year before last year and has some pop,” Olsen said.
A pair of freshmen, both from Sydney Australia, posted solid showings in the fall and look to press the sophomores for playing time. Jake Quinlivan plays right field and third base and Will Edwards both caught the eye of their coach.
“Jake has a real chance to be in the starting lineup with his bat and Will really did a nice job in the fall, and I’m pretty excited about his future,” Olsen said.
With five of the top six outfielders being sophomores, Olsen is pleased to have freshman who will push for playing time and moving forward and has players he believes can step into bigger roles.
One returning sophomore and a transfer will anchor the middle infield spots to start the season. Oliver Davies, sophomore from Sydney Australia returns at second base and Alliskair Descartes transfers in from Indian Hills Community College will start the season at shortstop.
Davies is a right-hander who batted .286 in 26 games as a freshman and hit four home runs with 13 RBIS and 40 total bases for a .519 slugging average.
“I feel really good about him as a leader, as a hitter and as a defender,” Olsen said.
Descartes appeared in 15 games for Indian Hills with a .262 on-base average and one error in 43 chances (a .977 fielding percent). “He had a really consistent fall and has a good glove and an accurate arm,” Olsen said.
Blake Dale, freshman from Riverton, Wyo. will start the season at third base and bat leadoff. “He’s just a really good athlete who’s still learning to play the game,” Olsen said
When he isn’t in the outfield Quinlivan is also expected to see time at third base.
At first base, two freshmen are contending for the starting spot: Jackson Yeager (Omaha Westside), and Jason Serafinchon (Spruce Grove, Alberta).
“Jackson is right-handed and Jason left-handed and both of them are actually neck-and-neck so we’re probably going to play them both a lot, but both guys can hit,” Olsen said.
Abel Reyes is a sophomore transfer from Clarendon, originally from Puerto Caimito, Panama, and Olsen said Reyes might have a chance to get in the mix as the season progresses. Orlando Diaz, freshman, (Cidra, Puerto Rico) broke a finger on his throwing hand in the fall that kept him sidelined for a while but demonstrated good things both defensively and at the plate.
Sophomore Tyus Chudomelka is a left-handed hitting first baseman from Bellevue who appeared in eight games last season and batted .200. He looks to be the top backup at first, can DH, and looks to spend some time on the mound this season. He had one 6.2-inning outing as a freshman.
“I feel like Michael Quick, a freshman from Ontario, really separated himself as one of our best hitters as well as a very good catcher,” said Olsen. “He’s going to play a pivotal role and probably start in the two-hole.”
Quick is a left-handed hitting catcher.
Brett Cyprien, (Flower Mound, Texas) returns after being the third-string catcher a year ago, but with injuries got some starts late in the season. He appeared in 17 games with a .167 batting average and five driven in.
“He ended up starting in the playoffs for us and we’re really excited about him. He’s a solid catcher and a good hitter,” Olsen said.
Zeke Minic, (Thorton, Colo.) enrolled at semester and Teagen Schlimgen (Sioux Falls, S.D.) showed some offensive pop in the fall and he believes both will be in the mix behind the plate.
A pair of sophomores will lead the starting staff. Mike Acierno (Thornton, Colo.) and Cade Webber (Kelowna, British Columbia) have the most innings worked last year. Acierno started 11 games and went 4-1 in 53 innings with a 6.96 ERA and 71 strikeouts while Webber went 4-3 in 46 innings with a 6.70 ERA and 63 strikeouts. He started six games.
“Both of them had nice freshman years and will head up the front of the rotation,” Olsen.
Four freshmen are looking for a regular slot in the starting rotation. They include left-hander Ethan Badcock (Adelade, Australia); Myles Chabi (Sydney, Australia); Blake Banello (Thornton, Colo.); and Aiden Johnson (Westminster, Colo.).
“Ethan has shown the ability to dominate the strike zone and Myles has really improved since he got here and I think has the chance to be pretty good in a starting role for us,” Olsen said. “Blake has one of our better arms and is a gifted talent and Aiden has the chance to start and throw some key innings for us.”
Returners include Jelle Bing (Heerhagoaard, Netherlands); Owen Lester (St. Clarles, Ill.); CJ Allen (Salado, Texas); Jackson Bigge (Fort Collins, Colo.); Rylan Wallingford and Ryan Malone, both of Bennington, Neb.; and Rocky Yates (Sydney, Australia) who redshirted last year with an injury.
Bing started four games and went 1-3 with a pair of saves with 25 strikeouts and a 5.77 ERA in 47 innings. Lester pitched 22.2 innings and struck out 28 in 16 relief appearances. He had a 9.13 ERA.
“They both played key roles for us last year out of the pen. Jelle really came on at the end of the year, and Owen is one of our more improved guys,” Olsen said. “
In 13 relief outings Allen went 0-1 with a 10.71 ERA and had one save. He pitched 19 innings and struck out 19 hitters. Bigge appeared in seven games with a save and pitched 9.1 innings with 15 strikeouts.
“Both did a pretty nice job for us last year and we expect them to be a big part of what we do again,” Olsen said
Wallingford appeared in eight games in relief, pitched 21.1 innings, picked up two saves and struck out 24. In December Wallingford signed a letter of intent to pitch next year at Ottawa University in Kansas. His former high school teammate Malone missed his freshman year because of an injury.
“Rylan had a really good end of the year but is coming off injuries so we’re trying to get him healed up,” Olsen said. “And Ryan Malone was a kid we were really high on last year but redshirted and is coming off Tommy John surgery and we need to get him healed up and Rocky too.”
Transfers include Jereniel Herrera (Panama City, Panama) and Victor Nane (Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico).
Freshmen contending for innings this year include: William Coe (North Platte); Zack Lane (Phoenix, Ariz.); Ryan Heu (Brampton, Ontario); Dylan Sipple (Upper Comcia, Australia); and Jackson Finder (Lincoln Pius).
Those expected to redshirt this year are Eli Schaffer (Thornton Colo.); Josh Jedretich (Fifth Kingsdale, Australia); and Andrew Meick (Sterling, Colo.).
REGION IX SCHEDULE
As mentioned earlier Olsen feels like all the teams in the Empire League North Division are going to be tough.
“I think it’s going to be tough again – there’s not going to be a ton of separation one through four,” Olsen said.
On the other side of the region, Trinidad State won South Division last season (22-12) with Lamar second (15-19), Otero third (13-21) and Luna fourth at 8-28.”
“Trinidad ended the year ranked along with Southeast CC,” Olsen said. “Lamar just had our number last year sweeping us at their place and then taking two of three in the playoffs, and I think Otero and Luna have added some really nice players,” Olsen said.
This will be the third year for the eight-team, two-division Region IX setup and Olsen really likes the format.
MCC will have home-and-home three-game series with Southeast, NJC and Western Nebraska. Those key home dates include Feb. 25-26 against NJC, March 11-12 against Southeast, and April 29-30 against Western.
Against the four teams in the south MCC plays four games each. This year MCC will host four-game home series against Lamar (March 18-19) and against Otero Junior College (April 1-2) with road games at Trinidad State (March 4-5) and Luna Community College (March 25-26).
In post season play the top-seeded North team plays the lowest-seeded team in the South. The North’s second team plays the third-seeded South team, the third seed in the North plays the South’s second seed and the fourth-place North team faces the No. 1 team from the south. The four highest seeded teams get first-round home games – a best two out of three game series.
The final four advance to a double-elimination tournament in Colorado Springs.
For all the up-to-date information on MCC baseball this season including up-to-date scheduling changes, statistics, rosters and photos, please visit the official website of MCC Athletics at mccindians.com