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CSN rides local players to Junior College World Series berth

Updated May 22, 2024 - 7:00 pm

College of Southern Nevada baseball coach Nick Garritano could have panicked when his team lost six of its first 10 games this season.

But he didn’t, and things have improved immensely since February. The Coyotes play Northwest Florida State College at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the 10-team National Junior College Athletic Association World Series at Grand Junction, Colorado.

Garittano suspected from the start that he had one of the strongest rosters in the country, and he turned out to be right. The Coyotes won 47 of 51 games after the rough start, going 3-0 to claim their 12th Scenic West Athletic Conference title, 4-1 for the Region 18 Tournament championship and 3-0 for the Western District Tournament crown.

“This team is such a family,” said Garritano, who has led the program to two consecutive conference titles and seven overall in his 14 seasons at CSN. “They’re really pulling on the same end of the rope. No one ever panics. They just find a way to answer. This is just a special group.”

CSN (51-10) is the tournament’s No. 9 seed, and Northwest Florida (36-13) is No. 2.

“In a perfect world, we’d like to have a better seed,” Garritano said, “But it’s just a number. We knew we were going to have to play some of the best teams in the country, but we are one of the best. The bottom line is that we’re going to have to play our A game if we want the national title.”

Garritano said his team is relatively healthy, and his offense is rolling.

Green Valley High alum Brady Ballinger leads the way, batting .434 with five home runs, 28 doubles and 58 RBIs. Desert Oasis graduate Jet Gilliam is hitting .361 with five home runs, six triples and 41 RBIs.

The pitching staff is led by Bishop Gorman graduate Lucas Boesen, who is 9-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 112 strikeouts.

Garritano’s roster features 20 players from Southern Nevada, and they have been a major key to the team’s success.

“When you go around the field on a daily basis, there are six to seven locals in the lineup,” he said.

The championship game will be played either May 31 or June 1. Top-seeded Johnson County (Texas), Georgia Highlands, Florence-Darlington Tech (South Carolina), Blinn (Texas), Iowa Western, Shelton State (Alabama), Crowder (Missouri) and McLennan (Texas) round out the field. Garritano said his squad is prepared for anyone.

“Our goal is to win the national championship,” he said. “We set this goal a long time ago. The guys have been great, but they’re not satisfied. They know someone’s got to win, so why not us?”

The Coyotes have won nine of their past 10 games, while Northwest Florida (South Atlantic District) has won eight of 10. In the double-elimination tournament, CSN will play Monday if it wins the opener or face an elimination game Sunday.

Though Garritano plans to bring home the championship trophy, he will leave Grand Junction with the same outlook, win or lose.

“It’s really been a good run,” he said. “The guys are not cocky, but they have a lot of confidence, and you’ve got to have confidence to win this thing.”

Review-Journal reporter Jeff Wollard can be reached at jwollard@reviewjournal.com.

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