RICHLAND COLLEGE BASEBALL TEAM OFF TO BEST START IN COACH JOE WHARTONâ€™S 12-YEAR TENURE
Richland College baseball coach Joe Wharton believes that this yearâ€™s team has just as good of a chance to end up a national champion as any of his other three championship squads had during his 12 years as the T-Ducksâ€™ skipper.
And if anyone has doubted that this team has what it takes to win another title then Richland Collegeâ€™s 7-0 record to begin the season â€“ the best in school history â€“ should be enough proof.
â€œItâ€™s always important to get off on a good note to start a season because it lets your team know you can win. Once you establish that, then it becomes expected, and losing is unacceptable here at Richland,â€ Wharton said. â€œI am very competitive, I know what it takes to win at any level and I teach our guys that losing is not an option.â€
The T-Ducks, who finished third in the NJCAA Division III World Series National Championship Tournament last season, are currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Since taking over the helm as head coach, Whartonâ€™s teams have consistently reached the World Series National Championship Tournament â€“ nine times in 12 years â€“ and have been among the nationâ€™s elite teams.
â€œI take pride in the great tradition I have built since I have been here and my drive will not change until I am done coaching,â€ Wharton, who has won more than 400 games during his 12-year span of coaching at Richland College, said. â€œYou can expect us to be ranked in the top five consistently while I am the coach here because I will recruit, scout and develop my players to be that good. I owe it to them for coming to our institution and that is my commitment to each player.â€
Because of Richland Collegeâ€™s success over the years, many NCAA Division I programs and professional teams continue to scout T-Duck baseball games to recruit talent.
According to Wharton, recently there were around 15 professional clubs looking at his team.
â€œYou don’t see that in other JUCO sports,â€ he added. â€œWe have that kind of talent here on campus.â€
Among the talented players that Wharton has at his disposal this season are pre-season all-Americans pitcher Phillip Clinard and infielder Josh Christenson.
Clinard finished last year 11-1 with a 2.95 ERA while Christenson ended the season with .402 batting average, 14 home runs and 65 RBI.
Another T-Duck player to watch out for is Chad Rogers. Wharton says that Rogers is the best athlete on the field because he is the No. 3 hitter who hits for power and he plays outstanding defense in centerfield. Rogers, Wharton added, is also one of the T-Ducksâ€™ top pitchers, having been clocked at 95 miles per hour last fall.
â€œThis is for sure the deepest rotation Iâ€™ve had since 1997,â€ Wharton said about his pitching staff. â€œOur strength is our pitching, but our offense is coming around and I think as the season goes on, we will keep producing seven to eight runs a game.â€
Currently, the T-Ducks score more than 8.4 runs per game while allowing fewer than four runs, a telling sign that, if Richland College continues to play at this level, then possibly winning a championship this season is within the T-Ducksâ€™ grasp.
â€œThere are only two goals for an athlete here at Richland: 1). is to get an education, and 2). is to win a national championship,â€ Wharton said. â€œIf both of these goals are not a priority then he will not be here at Richland.â€