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Walters State advances to World Series

Dave Shelton has seen his fair share of trips to Grand Junction, Colo., but this weekend will be different for the second-year skipper of the Walters State baseball team.
The Senators won the deciding game of the NJCAA East Central District tournament on Saturday, May 16, with an 18-8 victory over Chattanooga State in Morristown.
Walters State heads to the JUCO World Series for the sixth time in the past 13 years and for the seventh time in the program’s history. The upcoming trip will be Shelton’s fifth, but first as head coach.
“You learn the value of tradition coming from a place like Unicoi County,” Shelton said in an interview with The Erwin Record on Sunday. “You learn what it takes to win. Myself and guys like coach (Mike) Corn of Columbia State were able to help build that program playing for coach (Charlie) Baxter. The tradition continues to stay the same, from when coach (Chris) Bogart was there and now with coach Chad Gillis.
“There’s just so many emotions going through the team right now. It was pretty amazing to see the excitement from the guys and watch them exceed expectations. Being part of it before, you know how hard it is to get there and to see these guys get the opportunity says a lot about their work ethic. Seeing the smiles on their faces and watching them celebrate are the reasons why people get into coaching.”
Two former Blue Devils are part of Walters State’s roster. Ethan Rice added a hit in the win over Chattanooga State, while Austin Green was in the bullpen. Green has been a mainstay for the squad in relief efforts.
The freshmen will have their eyes opened to a whole new experience along with the rest of the team, Shelton said.
“It’s a moment you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” he said of playing in the JUCO World Series. “That’s what I told them after our game last night. Guys would kill to play in front of a crowd of 12,000 people. I know we’ve had scouts come from Omaha to Grand Junction to check out players and they’ve talked about how incredible a feeling it is to see that kind of crowd.
“We’ll be busy once we get into town. We’ll fly into Denver then take a bus ride into Grand Junction on Thursday.”
The team will participate in a banquet, children’s camp and team photos before their opening round of the World Series.
Walters State opens the tournament on Saturday, May 23, at noon. The Senators did not know who their opponent would be before The Erwin Record’s press deadline becuase tournament play in Oklahoma was interrupted due to inclement weather.