NJCAA Divisions I-III JUCO World Series Recap

Tad Slowik
Special Assistant, Scouting Operations

Central Arizona Meets Every Challenge To Become NJCAA Division 1 National Champions

The 2022 NJCAA Division 1 season was loaded with talented teams, coaches and players. The traditional powers were as strong as ever, but equally strong teams were trying to knock them off their perch. Ask any team who went to the World Series how tough the road was to get there. Almost every team had to fight through an early loss and win two games at the end to advance. There were constant challenges in conferences, regions and sectionals. To stay on top, teams had to be on their game every day or risk getting knocked off. With the number of talented teams out there, every game mattered. 

The season had excitement from start to finish. Walters State and Wabash Valley had great runs and stayed atop of the polls for most of the season. However, it was a bloodbath for most other teams trying to remain on top. Early runs by Dyersburg State and Arizona Western threatened the traditional powers in the rankings as well as a consistent run by Salt Lake all season. The highly competitive state of Florida looked like anyone could win it early on. Chipola was the favorite to be there in the end, only to be overtaken by a surging Central Florida club. San Jacinto looked like Alvin or Wharton could knock it off, but the Gators prevailed. McLennan had challenges in Region 5 from Grayson and Weatherford. The Highlanders beat home team Midland twice to advance to the World Series. Harford wanted a shot at the title as they came out on top of an exciting sectional, defeating Flo-Dar Tech. If anyone could have foreseen what would happen in Alabama, you would have been pretty savvy. Those teams beat each other pretty well before Snead State took the title and headed to Grand Junction. Crowder had all the talent, but nothing came easy for them. Cowley had several walk-off wins in the playoffs before heading to the World Series title game. 

No team had a tougher road than Central Arizona, who fought off a talented Arizona Western team in the Conference, then had to battle a Cochise squad in the Region 1 Finals. Cochise won the first game and forced the Vaqueros to win two elimination games to advance to Sectionals. The final game was a 15-inning thriller in which Central Arizona won 3-2. 

If those challenges weren’t enough, Central Arizona headed to Salt Lake for Sectionals. Salt Lake was having a great season. After the Bears took Game 1 of the Sectionals, Salt Lake had Central Arizona where they wanted them. The Vaqueros won the first elimination game in 10 innings and then ran away with the second elimination game. 

Central Arizona’s World Series experience was no different, as they lost their opening-round matchup to Crowder, 5-4. But, from there, the Vaqueros won five straight elimination games, toppling all the top teams in the country en route to a 2022 NJCAA Division 1 National Championship. Congratulations to Head Coach Anthony Gilitch, all the assistant coaches and all the Central Arizona players who made this Championship run so incredible. 


Pearl River Wildcats claw their way to NJCAA Division 2 National Championship

Pearl River may play in the toughest region in NJCAA Division 2 - Region 23. Not only do they have to deal with the tough Mississippi JUCO schedule, but they have to get by perennial power and defending National Champion LSU Eunice. All this might seem like a monumental undertaking, but this year the Wildcats rolled up their sleeves and did the heavy lifting.

Already a top-ranked JUCO powerhouse, Pearl River set their sights on the big prize and fired a warning shot in mid-March by taking down LSU Eunice, 10-5. The game gave the Wildcats an indication that winning a title could become a reality. The game lifted Pearl River into the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, a spot they refused to give up.

Now, they had to finish the job. With a rematch against LSU Eunice looming and some big noise being made in the upper Midwest by teams like Madison and Heartland, the Wildcats knew it would be a tough road to the end. But with the swagger from their first meeting, Pearl River took it to LSU Eunice, defeating them 11-4 in the Region 23 Championship to secure a World Series berth. 

The World Series in Enid, Okla. featured all the top teams in the country. Pearl River would put on an impressive offensive show to win the first three games and advance to the best 2-out-of-3 finals vs. No. 2-ranked Madison. Madison had a deep pitching staff and the Wolfpack defeated the Wildcats, 11-4 in Game 1. The Wildcat’s confidence and determination did not waiver as they broke out the bats and pounded Madison, 19-1 in Game 2. One step away from their first ever baseball National Championship, Pearl River would not be denied. In the winner-take-all Championship Game, Pearl River handled Madison, 7-2, to bring home the title. Well deserved congratulations to Head Coach Michael Avalon, the assistant coaches and all the Pearl River players on becoming the 2022 NJCAA Division II National Champions!

Herkimer Generals take charge and take the NJCAA Division 3 National Championship

Herkimer was ranked among the top teams in the nation all year, and a strong combination of pitching, defense and hitting carried them to an undefeated conference season. They made a statement at the end of the regular season, taking two of three from top-ranked RCSJ Gloucester. 

Things were looking good after a sweep of Onondaga in the Region 3 Sub-regionals. Still, adversity struck the Generals with a 2-0 opening-round loss to Finger Lakes in the Region 3 Final Four. Like true competitors, Herkimer battled their way back to the Championship Game vs. Niagara County to win their third elimination game in a row, taking the opener, 7-5. Then came the gut punch: they lost a tightly contested game to Niagara, as Niagara punched its ticket to Greeneville, Tenn.

Herkimer was down but not out. Due to the team’s outstanding season, Herkimer earned the only at-large bid to the D3 World Series in Greenville. With a second chance, the Generals decided to take charge. They seized the moment and rattled off three straight wins over the top teams in the country, beating Northern Essex, Oakton and Dallas-Eastfield to earn a spot in the championship round. 

It only took Herkimer one game in the finals, as they defeated Dallas-Eastfield to become NJCAA Division 3 National Champions. It is Herkimer's first-ever baseball National Championship. Congratulations to Head Coach Jason Rathbun, the assistant coaches and all the Herkimer players for an outstanding World Series run!

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