On the opening weekend of the season in January, College of Southern Nevada left-hander Chasen Shreve developed tendinitis in his shoulder. The prescription was rest and rehabilitation.
Shreve did not throw a baseball for a month and missed a total of seven weeks.
"It's all worth it now," he said Saturday, after pitching the Coyotes to an 8-2 victory over Western Nevada in the NJCAA Region 18 tournament championship at Morse Stadium.
CSN took a 5-0 lead in the first inning, and Shreve shouldered the responsibility of protecting it by pitching into the seventh.
"Going into the game, we felt really confident that he was going to get it done," Coyotes coach Tim Chambers said.
CSN (46-13) advanced to the four-team Western District Tournament in Lamar, Colo., where it will open against Western Nebraska at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The top-seeded Coyotes won the Scenic West Athletic Conference regular-season title and went 3-0 in the tournament, but their celebration was rather subdued.
"This is one of our short-term goals. The first one was to win the league, and the second goal was to win this tournament, because you go nowhere if you don't do that," Chambers said. "The granddaddy is our overall goal, to win the national championship."
CSN must win the district tournament to reach the Junior College World Series from May 29 to June 5 in Grand Junction, Colo.
At least this much was expected of the Coyotes when phenom Bryce Harper left Las Vegas High School after his sophomore year to enroll at CSN. The 17-year-old Harper could be the top pick in June's major league draft.
"We came out here strong, and we delivered," he said. "We're having a lot of fun right now. We're rolling."
Harper helped trigger the Coyotes offense by singling to load the bases with no outs in the first inning. Ryan Thomas delivered a two-run single to highlight the five-run outburst. Thomas' hit chased Western Nevada starter Jordan Lewis, who retired one of the seven batters he faced.
"Our lineup is really strong. One through nine every guy can swing it," said Harper, who went 1-for-5. "Our pitching staff is second to none."
Shreve, a sophomore from Bonanza High, allowed two unearned runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He improved to 4-0 this season and 12-0 in his CSN career.
On the eve of his most important start, Shreve received some advice.
"Chambers called me last night and said, 'Don't get too pumped, just stay within yourself and you'll be fine.' That's exactly what I did," Shreve said. "I tried not to get too pumped and overthrow.
"We've got a lot of confidence, but we're not cocky about it. Our main goal is to win the national championship, and that's when we'll celebrate. That's when it really counts. We've got to make it to Grand Junction."
■ NOTES -- CSN outfielder Trevor Kirk, who finished 6-for-12 with six RBIs, was named tournament Most Valuable Player. Central Arizona faces host Lamar at 11 a.m. Thursday in the other district tournament matchup.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.