Roughriders ranked No. 1 in coaches preseason poll
Cougill: 'It's a whole new season'
PRESCOTT — Featuring six returning sophomore pitchers with JuCo World Series experience, Yavapai College was ranked No. 1 in an NJCAA preseason baseball coaches association poll released Friday afternoon.
Hayden Durkiewicz and Avery Weems will provide a one-two punch for a 2017 Roughrider club coming off their first national title in more than two decades.
Durkiewicz allowed two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in a 7-3 national semifinal win over Iowa Western on June 2. Prior to that outing, Weems took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Cowley College in a 6-2 win.
Chattahoochee Valley follows Yavapai at No. 2 in the preseason poll, while Iowa Western sits at No. 3. San Jacinto, the club current Philadelphia Phillies farmhand JoJo Romero was brilliant against with 15 strikeouts in a 5-2 title game victory, is ranked No. 4, while Santa Fe sits at No. 5.
Romero, a lefty, was selected with the 107th pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies, making him the highest draft pick to come out of Roughrider Park since Curt Schilling was selected 39th overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 draft.
Others expected to return for the Roughriders in 2017 include Dylan Enwiller, Jonathan Villa, Andrew Gross and Jaxxon Fagg, but with 18 new faces expected in camp next month, Yavapai skipper Ryan Cougill faces the same situation he did a year ago, having lost many of his key position players and pitchers.
“It’s a whole new season,” Cougill said about this spring.
Yavapai opens the 2017 campaign Friday, Jan. 27, in Henderson, Nevada, against Utah State.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.