The Salt Lake Community College baseball team is working to become champions on and off the field.
SLCC finished 32-20 last year, going 28-16 in conference games. However, they fell to the Coyotes of Southern Nevada on championship day of the Region 18 Tournament. Despite losing some key elements from last year’s squad, head coach DG Nelson and the rest of the Bruins have found success early in the 2018 season, posting a 10-4 record as they begin Scenic West Athletic Conference play this week.
Replacing the productive bat of Mitch Berryhill (Cal-State Fullerton) at the top of the order was an offseason obstacle. Sophomores Nick Seginowich and Quinn Ayers look to produce on a regular basis and build on their stellar freshman seasons.
Seginowich, the team’s starting catcher, bats in the No. 3 spot and already has four home runs to start the year.
“He is probably our top returner. He was an all-region catcher as a freshman. You almost expect those guys to step up and lead you,” says longtime assistant coach Derek Waddoups.
The Bruins have some talented freshmen this season as well. Waddoups expects starting left fielder Damian Henderson to make an immediate impact.
“He hits in the four-hole. He’s gotten off to a really good start,” Waddoups says. “He has big upside. He’s a really good athlete. [He has] plus barrel speed, is showing power but is also showing the ability to hit for a high batting average.”
Starting shortstop Jaxson Otis has also caught Waddoups’ attention.
“His skill set projects really well,” Waddoups says. “He’s really fast, runs a 6.5 [second] 60 [yard-dash]. As a leadoff hitter, he’s that high on-base percentage guy. He has the unique ability to hit for power too, but is really suited as a leadoff, speed-style player.”
Waddoups is confident his “athletic” offense can produce, but says their deep pitching staff is really something to be excited about.
Sophomores Ben Weese and Parker Hall are the top returning starting pitchers. Weese earned a victory his last time on the mound, throwing five strong innings with nine strikeouts.
Out of the bullpen, closer Jesse Parker looks to shut down opponents late in games to chalk up some wins for the Bruins.
“[Parker] throws a lot of strikes and he’s really just deceptive,” Waddoups says. “[He] has a sneaky fastball, I mean it’s tough to hit. We look at it like, if we can get a lead into those last two innings, give the ball to him and game over.”
Bringing a championship culture into existence
When asked what kind of team-building activities the players participate in during the offseason, coach Waddoups recognized the importance of the Know Greater Heroes (KGH) program.
With KGH, all SLCC freshmen student-athletes from the baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer and basketball teams come together for the community and its youth.
“We teach [athletes] a leadership course in the fall, a 12-week sports psychology leadership course. Then, we start doing elementary school assemblies so they have the opportunity to get out into the elementary schools in the valley. We do about 30 elementary school assemblies every year,” Waddoups says.
Waddoups also credited the classroom and the weight room as places his players learn to work together to become better teammates on the field.
“We always tell our guys when we recruit them, the place we’re going to push them hardest is, number one, in the classroom, because you have to be a great student to be on the field,” Waddoups says. “The second place is the weight room. They need to take care of their bodies to be an elite athlete.
“The more you work and sweat together and get after it in the weight room and the classroom and support each other on and off the field, the more you build your team.”
SLCC wants to play in the 2018 JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. To get there, the Bruins must win the Region 18 end-of-season tournament and then win the district tournament.
In the past 10 years as an assistant coach, Waddoups has seen the Bruins make the district tournament three times, but not the national tournament. He believes creating a championship culture is the key to increasing success.
“The biggest expectation for our team is to be champions. We talk about that in every phase of life; be a champion off the field and how you treat people, be a champion in the classroom, be a champion in everything you do. The more you create that championship culture is how you become champions on the field,” Waddoups says.
The SLCC baseball team begins conference play Thursday, March 1. The Bruins next play at home on Friday, March 9, as they take on Utah State University Eastern for a four-game series at Cate Field on the Jordan Campus.
Visit the SLCC Athletics baseball section for the complete 2018 schedule and roster.