Brandon Cundiff accepts CNCC’s baseball challenge
Written by: Joel Priest
When assembling a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, it’s important to first find the four corners.
Not just because there’s only four in the entire box, but because the two straight edges on each piece leave just two possible directions to build out from.
The reduced guesswork, in turn, shortens the time needed to complete the whole picture.
For Colorado Northwestern Community College baseball coach Dustin Colborn however, solving the whole picture in the competitive Scenic West Athletic Conference puzzle has been a struggle, to say the least. Unable to fit everything together during the 2006-07 campaign, the Spartans were a woeful 13-42 overall, and 4-36 against the five other SWAC squads.
It wasn’t any easier in ’05-’06, as CNCC went 11-43 and 6-32 respectively.
But after seeing Brandon Cundiff excel at some off-season tryouts, the fifth-year skipper (and assistant athletic director) hopes the former Ignacio Bobcat will be one of the true ‘corners’ his proud program can re-build upon over the next couple seasons.
“I had a couple offers from some Nebraska schools,” Cundiff said, “but I didn’t think they were for me. And then I got in touch with the coach in Rangely [Colborn], who had seen me, and he said he was really interested in having me play up there, so I accepted.”
And when Cundiff arrives in the former oil boomtown on Aug. 13, Colborn will be pleased to see that his new recruit will come in shape and intact, having just finished a final AABC (American Amateur Baseball Congress) Connie Mack slate with the Farmington Bandits.
“Brandon was just a heck of a player for us,” commented bench coach and team statistician John Buckles, “and a joy to have around. We were fifth place this season, but the top four teams above us were all really tight and strong and he still played well.”
Well enough to finish among the 18-U New Mexico team’s leaders in batting average (.400, 20 hits), slugging average (.480, 24 total bases in 50 official at-bats), and on-base percentage (.544). He also posted 15 RBI’s and scored an even dozen runs, but it was Cundiff’s two-sided versatility that really caught Colborn’s—former mentor of current major leaguer Rod Barajas (Phillies) and numerous former players—eyes and ears.
Recording a brilliant .919 fielding percentage, Cundiff committed only three errors all summer, while playing virtually all positions with regularity. He also posted a 1-0 record pitching over his 11-1/3 innings and five appearances, striking out eight.
Conversely, the CNCC players combined to bat just .200—their opponents hit .310—and amassed a 6.68 collective ERA (while the enemy’s mark was just 2.85).
“I think it all went pretty well,” said Cundiff, “I had some more back-up defensively when I was pitching, than I did my last season at Ignacio, and I also did more hitting with probably half the number of at-bats. I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get more playing time!”
A strong showing during CNCC’s fall schedule could get him precisely that, especially when considering the SWAC has produced two NJCAA Division I national champions in the last five years—Dixie State College (St. George, Utah) in 2004, and College of Southern Nevada (Henderson, Nev.) in 2003. Colorado Northwestern was eliminated from contention in 2007 in the Region XVIII Tournament by eventual champs Western Nevada CC (Carson City, Nev.), but did record a win over College of Southern Idaho (Twin Falls, ID) to finish 1-2 at the regionals.
Meanwhile, Western Nevada advanced to the ‘Final Five’ of the 50th Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, but fell to San Jacinto College-North (Houston, TX). The Gators were then eliminated by Chipola College (Marianna, FL), who went on to claim the crown in Grand Junction.
“I haven’t decided what to study yet,” said Cundiff, “but when I get there I’ll be starting some of my basic courses to get them done with, and then I’ll see what happens. I’m excited.”
COULDN’T GO IT ALONE: In becoming the second out of IHS’ four-man senior baseball class of 2007 to receive a college offer (along with Derek Rodriguez), Cundiff was joined on the Bandits by fellow Bobcat teammate and graduate Lawrence Bartley. Just as multi-faceted in his game, Bartley hit .345 for the summer (with a .473 slugging mark), going 19-55 with 16 runs scored. He also drew nine bases-on-balls and was hit by five pitches to forge an OBP of .536.
He also saw 18 innings of mound work and posted a 2-2 record in his five appearances, fanning seven, as the Bandits (7-7) finished behind Naa’taanii (7-7), the Drillers (9-4), Cardinals (11-3), and Rodriguez’s Storm (12-1) in the final regular-season Mack standings—ahead of the Durango Demons (5-9), Farmington Senators (2-12), and Cortez DiamondJaxx (2-12).