Eagles head to World Series!May 28, 2021
And they’re off!
Amid an early afternoon of fanfare, the Rockingham Community College baseball team celebrated its Mid-Atlantic District Championship and then boarded a charter bus to the World Series – for the third consecutive season.
The 25-14 Eagles are headed to Pioneer Park in Greeneville, Tenn. for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III World Series.
Seventh-seeded RCC will face second-seeded Tyler Junior College at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 29.
The winner will face either Coastal Bend or Oakton at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Winners will continue to advance and play at 7 p.m. on Monday, and finally in the NJCAA Championship game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Eagles secured their place in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series after double-header wins on Friday, May 21 at home on Gilliland Field.
That afternoon found RCC facing Pennsylvania-based Westmoreland Community College. After a slow start, RCC suddenly picked up the pace and beat Westmoreland 7-2 and 20-6.
“We’ve been that team all year. When something clicks, it just clicks, and the whole team is on fire,” said Head Coach Reece Honeycutt. “It’s something that falls back-to-back-to-back all the time. We’ve been that streaky type team all year … when we’re hot we’re hot, and when we’re not, we’re not.”
He recognized the efforts of the entire team during this unusual season.
“These guys worked their tails off, and they deserve everything they get. We’re going to go up there and will play our style of baseball and hopefully we’ll come back victorious,” said Honeycutt, named Coach of the Year during the Region 10 Championship in early May.
“It was a crazy season, from COVID testing and COVID restrictions, to injuries, planning a 42-game schedule, and getting guys where they needed to be,” he said.
Honeycutt said Tyler Junior College has won five national championships in a row, at one point. RCC has not faced them in the last two World Series.
“I’m excited. They’re a powerhouse. We have to see where we stand next to them. You have to beat the best to be the best,” he said.
Honeycutt has spent much time reviewing footage of that team.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what we can use to our advantage. We’re going to start Scott Meitzler, our sophomore arm, and we’ll go from there.”
Thursday’s campus celebration evolved from autographs, photos and corn hole, to an organized introduction of every player as they came down the gym steps to the cheers of the crowd and fist bumps of teammates.
When the team was fully assembled outside, RCC President Dr. Mark Kinlaw addressed the players, after admiring a baseball bat and ball that had been signed by the whole team.
“I can’t say enough for what you’ve done here to instill a winning program. You win the right way. You play together as a team, but you also do extremely well academically,” Kinlaw said, congratulating the Eagles on their grades and their World Series three-peat.
“We are all really pulling for you this week. Enjoy the experience. There’s nothing like team sports, because you get to enjoy it with your friends and fellow players. It’s something you’ll never forget as long as you live,” he said.
Kinlaw recalled famous golfer Lee Trevino being asked about his expectations heading into a tournament. “He said, ‘listen, somebody’s gotta win, and it might as well be me.’”
The President then looked to the future.
“We’re unfortunately going to be losing some of (our athletes) as they go on to better things, and we wish all of them the best of luck,” Kinlaw said. “We’ll have some of them back, and we’ll rebuild and will be right back here again next year, I think, as you continue a great tradition.”
Following a presentation of a signed bat to Coach Honeycutt and Assistant Coach Kane Sutton.
Then, with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” blasting from the speakers on the gym steps, the team and coaches boarded their charter bus, and with an escort from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, drove past the gym and out of sight.