Coach Phil Desjardins has a simple pitch for baseball recruits checking out Southern Maine Community College.

“Come here. Get a start. Bat .400 and you’ll be seen.”

This week, perhaps more than ever, SMCC will be seen.

The Seawolves will take the field at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach at 4 p.m. Monday in the National Baseball Tournament of the United States College Athletic Association.

It will be the team’s fifth appearance in the double-elimination tournament. They are tournament hosts and the No. 10 seed, with a 20-21 record.

They will be underdogs in a field of talented teams from around the country. The event will mark the grand reopening of The Ballpark.

“We’re a quick team. But we don’t have that big, big hitter,” said Desjardins. “It’s the heart. You’ve gotta have it out there.”

Heart is nothing new to Tyler Kelly, the team’s first baseman who grew up just a stone’s throw from SMCC’s seaside campus. He spent a year away from the game, before enrolling at SMCC.

“I just missed the game too much,” said Kelly.

Or to pitcher Charlie Boettcher, who came from upstate New York two years ago to play baseball and pursue an associate’s degree in fire science.

He already completed his degree this spring, but is sticking around next week to compete with his team.

“This is my last hurrah,” said Boettcher. “This is going to be one of the last times I get to play against good competition. I’m excited to get out there.”

How the Seawolves got to 20 wins this year is no study in consistency.

They’ve done it with hits. With pitching. Via small ball.

sheer grit.

“They don’t have a trademark way to win,” said SMCC Athletic Director Matt Richards. “They play the ugly kind of baseball to get wins. Slap hits, knocking the ball down, grinding games out. The question will be do we play error-free baseball? We do, we have a shot.”

SMCC scores 5.94 runs per game, has a team ERA of 4.16, a fielding percentage of .945.

Their top batter is Nate Leeman of South Portland, who hit .372, with 27 runs batted in.

Their competition will be strong.

The Apprentice School, the No. 1 seed, for example, is 24-13 and won its last five games. It beat SMCC handily earlier this season — by scores of 8-1 and 12-1.

The No. 2-seeded team, Briarcliffe, is 20-11 and also beat SMCC twice: 11-1, 19-1.

But, say players, that was early in the spring season.

“We’ve had more time as a team together now,” said Kelly. “Hopefuly they will take us lightly. But we have some very good talent. We’ve shown signs of it. We just haven’t gotten it all together yet.”

SMCC has long attracted players who need that extra year or two either athletically or academically.

Anthony D’Alfonso, the former Westbrook slugger, started at SMCC after high school. He advanced to the University of Southern Maine, crushed the ball some more in summer baseball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League and played on an independent minor league team last summer.

He’s the poster boy for the program.

In the last 10 years SMCC has gone from a marginally competitive 10-game schedule to seasons with 40-plus games a year.

“That brings the kids to us,” said Desjardins. “It’s good baseball.

“This week we need to play good baseball and upset. I think we can do it.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]