A year removed from playing for Harlem High School, Josh Wirsu finds himself on junior college’s biggest stage.
Wirsu and his Gordon College (Barnesville, Ga.) teammates are in Grand Junction, Colo., prepping for the school’s first appearance in the National Junior College World Series.
“I’ve never even dreamed of going to the World Series,” said Wirsu. “I thought maybe one day I could play in the SEC, ACC, go to the World Series. Maybe one day get drafted and go pro and hopefully my team would go to the World Series.”
The Highlanders beat Middle Georgia College for the East Central District title on Monday and flew to Colorado on Thursday.
As well as the time difference, there are other things the team will have to get used to.
“We just went and ran and tried to get used to the altitude,” Wirsu said. “I could run for days back home just because I’m used to it, lots of oxygen. Up here we ran two or three 100-yard jogs and you’re still out of breath.”
They have some time to adjust as they begin play in the 10-team tournament Sunday against Shelton State Community College (Tuscaloosa, Ala.). The Highlanders enter as the nation’s No. 10 team with a 36-23 record. They will face the No. 9 Buccaneers (38-21).
In his freshman year, Wirsu is 3-3 in 13 appearances while recording 30 strikeouts.
In the double-elimination tournament, Wirsu is scheduled to pitch the Highlanders’ third game Wednesday.
Head coach Travis McClanahan has been impressed with what he’s gotten from his freshman.
“He’s a big reason we started winning,” said McClanahan. “We struggled in the first half of season. Josh is one of those pitchers who stepped up and started pitching so much better. We knew we could put him on the mound for six or eight innings we’d have a chance at winning while he was out there. That’s been a big part of our success, him pitching so well in the second half of the season.”
Wirsu wants to pitch well in the tournament, but he wants the teams success ahead of his own, something he learned from Harlem baseball head coach Jimmie Lewis.
“He would teach (humility) and I was not a humble player when I first went to Harlem,” Wirsu said. “He kicked out the cockiness and kept in the confidence. He’s all about team, and now here, it’s all about team. I don’t care about individual stats.”
Sunday’s game will begin at 9:30 p.m.