Richland College baseball coach Joe Wharton believes that this year’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-Ducks’ skipper.

And if anyone has doubted that this team has what it takes to win another title then Richland College’s 7-0 record to begin the season – the best in school history – should be enough proof.

“It’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,” Wharton said. “I am very competitive, I know what it takes to win at any level and I teach our guys that losing is not an option.”

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, Wharton’s teams have consistently reached the World Series National Championship Tournament – nine times in 12 years – and have been among the nation’s elite teams.

“I 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,” Wharton, who has won more than 400 games during his 12-year span of coaching at Richland College, said. “You 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.”

Because of Richland College’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.

“You don’t see that in other JUCO sports,” he added. “We have that kind of talent here on campus.”

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-Ducks’ top pitchers, having been clocked at 95 miles per hour last fall.

“This is for sure the deepest rotation I’ve had since 1997,” Wharton said about his pitching staff. “Our 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.”

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-Ducks’ grasp.

“There are only two goals for an athlete here at Richland: 1). is to get an education, and 2). is to win a national championship,” Wharton said. “If both of these goals are not a priority then he will not be here at Richland.”