February weather is unpredictable and the recent cold has changed the plans for the Western Nebraska Community College baseball team's opening season games this weekend.
The Cougars will still open up against Garden City Community College on Saturday and Sunday, but the location has been moved to Falcon High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, because of the weather. Start time for both days of the doubleheader is slated for 11 a.m.
Even with the change in venue, there is plenty of optimism for the Cougar team this season. WNCC returns 10 players that saw action last season and they have plenty of newcomers that look to make an impact.
WNCC head coach Mike Jones and the players are excited to get the season started.
"The team is excited to get going," Jones said. "We have been putting in a lot of hard work the very first day these guys arrived here on campus. It is an exciting time for everyone to see the hard work put to use and to put on the uniform and go compete."
A lot of the returners that will be counted on are on the pitching staff. The returning pitchers are Devin DeBoer of Littleton, Colorado; Brandon Rollinson of Ft. Collins, Colorado; Zach Berg of Parker, Colorado; Wellington Mariano of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nate Kolb of Cloverdale, British Columbia; Kale Litzelman of Hotchkiss, Colorado; Hunter Parker of Centennial, Colorado;
Added to the returners is a freshmen class that Jones is high on.
"There is a lot of depth. We have a lot of good people in our program right know," he said. "We like the pitching staff. We like our ability to compete. We have really good stuff with our pitchers and they have really good secondary pitches. We should put together a good defense behind our quality pitching staff. We are looking to hold teams to low scoring games and we have to scrap with ways to score runs.
Jones is expecting good things from the pitching staff as well as some key returning position players.
"We have some key returners back as pitchers," he said. "Zach Berg, Kale Litzelman, Nate Kolb, and Hunter Parker are all guys returning from the mound that we expect big things from. When you look at the program offensively, Brevin Owen is going to be a returner that we will expect big things from. Harrison Yates is a returner we will expect a lot of stuff from."
While the sophomore class has plenty of talent, the freshmen class is also deep. Some newcomers to watch is Mitch Osborne of Lindsay, Ontario, as a catcher. Osborne transferred in this season and will have just one year with the Cougars. Osborne also signed to play this summer for the Western Nebraska Pioneers.
Other freshmen that Jones is high on include Ty McAninch of Thornton, Colorado, as an outfielder, Luis Alcantara of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic as a shortstop; Ethan "Q" Miller of Centennial, Colorado as an outfielder; Michael Felton of Loveland, Colorado as a catcher; and Dermot Fritsch of Brisbane, Australia, as an infielder.
Freshman pitchers to watch are Garrett DeClue of Littleton, Colorado, and Kyler Harris of Magnolia Texas.
Of the newcomers, three are signed to play in the Expedition Collegiate Wood-bat league. Osborne is signed to play with the Pioneers, Harris will be playing with the Casper Horseheads, and Alcantara will be playing with the expansion team from Canada, Wheat City Whiskey Jacks.
Other players on the roster include Austin Abbott of Gering; Jacob Hubert of Katy, Texas; Matt Womack of Houston, Texas; Joey Olson of Olathe, Kansas; John Betsch of Conifer, Colorado; Hayden Siebers of Ft. Collins, Colorado; Robert Fernandez of Amarillo, Texas; Elliott McNeave of Westminster, Colorado; Mitch Mullen of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Hunter Nelson of Erie, Colorado; SJ Mousseau of Superior, Colorado; and Chandler Young of Ft. Collins, Colorado.
After this weekend, the Cougars are scheduled to host Miles Community College on Feb. 16-17. Other than that, Jones said they will be on the road a lot during February and March.
"We are going to be on the road during February and March," he said. "We will be road warriors for awhile, but we won't let that get in our way."
The one goal the Cougars have is to win the Empire Conference so they can host the Region IX tournament. Then the Region IX winner will host the district playoffs with the district winner advancing to the NJCAA College Word Series the last part of May.