GASTONIA, N.C. — After being dormant for a half-century, Gaston College revived its athletics department just a few years ago.
Now, both the Rhinos baseball and softball squads have made the Junior College World Series in their first year of postseason eligibility.
“Obviously a lot of work, and people have contributed to it, from the president, on down to the board and academic support to make this happen," softball coach Michael Steuerwald said.
The softball team begins play on Tuesday in Alabama. Baseball takes the field Saturday in Colorado.
“This was the vision of Gaston College, this was the vision of our school president, the vision of our board of trustees," baseball coach Shohn Doty said. "They did what they needed to do from a standpoint of giving us the facilities and what we needed to come in and have a chance to be competitive right away. Our young men and obviously our young women have accepted that challenge.”
Doty, the baseball coach and athletics director, guided his group to a 49-win season so far.
The Rhinos are the first D1 baseball team from the state to make the series since Pitt Community College, which has since moved to D2, in 2013. Before then, Louisburg College made it in 2002.
"By Monday the talk will have gone from, gosh how cool is this? To let’s go win a national championship," Doty said.
The softball team has 43 wins. Pitcher Brantleigh Parrott is a true ace with a perfect 24-0 record.
The Rhinos are the first D1 softball team from their region to make the World Series in seven years.
“It’s been fun," Steuerwald said. "Obviously we’ve got one young lady Brantleigh Parrott who’s been throwing extremely well in the circle and has some phenomenal numbers. Every game day, it’s been somebody new in the lineup from top to bottom producing.”
Pinnacle moments for each program, happening so soon, and simultaneously.
“We love to see it," Steuerwald said. "From our end, obviously we’re trying to take care of our own business but at the same time you want the other team to be just as successful and win and move on as far as possible.”
The teams have a fundraiser to help support their respective trips. For more information on how to assist the Rhinos, click here.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, 25 years," Doty said. "I’ve never been around something like this, to take something that hadn’t been done in 50 years for baseball, and take something that had never been for softball and all of a sudden compete for national titles in year one. It’s unique. It puts a smile on my face every day.”