Baseball: Joliet Junior College’s King wins No. 900
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org April 10, 2012 9:20PM
Coach Wayne King led Joliet Junior College to the 2012 national championship and won his 900th game during the season. He will be honored at the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago banquet Jan. 27. | File photo
Updated: May 12, 2012 8:12AM
When baseball coach Wayne King arrived at Joliet Junior College in 1986 after six years as an assistant at his alma mater, Ohio University, he had this pegged as a temporary gig.
“I thought I would be in Joliet maybe three to five years and then get a job back in Ohio,” he said. “Now, I’m either going to retire here or die here. I guarantee it will be one of them.”
If it’s retire, that will have to wait awhile.
The Wolves recorded victory No. 900 in King’s illustrious career Tuesday with a 12-4 spanking of Harper at, appropriately enough, Wayne L. King Jr. Field on the JJC campus.
JJC (22-17) has much more to accomplish this season, and King fully intends to reach 1,000 “in maybe 21/2 or three years.”
Beyond that? “Well, I don’t think I’ll ever catch up with Gordie (Gillespie),” laughed King, whose record is 900-557-1 in 26 seasons.
Gillespie, the legendary University of St. Francis coach, has been college baseball’s all-time winningest coach since 1993 and retired last spring with 1,893 victories.
Celebration of King’s 900th was delayed for a few days after JJC dropped a doubleheader at home Saturday to Triton, 1-0 and 11-3. But the Wolves were not about to slip again. They put up a 6-spot in the first inning and right-hander Austin Vazquez (1-4), a freshman from Providence, went the nine-inning distance, tossing a five-hitter and striking out six.
“I’m really pleased with Austin’s performance,” said King, also the JJC athletic director the past 17 years. “He has been a struggling a bit. He got hit by a line drive his last time out.
“I really didn’t think he would be able to go nine innings, but he seemed to get stronger as the game went on. This was a good time to get his first college victory.”
“It feels good,” said Vazquez, who was backed by three infield double plays. “I enjoyed being the guy out there today. I know getting this one means a lot to him (King).”
The Wolves’ 16-hit offensive barrage included three each by Cole Judy and Trey Russell and two by Dakota Brown (Minooka), Trevor Vermillion (Joliet Township) and Dan Eliopulos. Russell drove in three, Luke Andrade (Lincoln-Way West) and Casey Papp (Providence) two each.
“It feels great to be part of this,” Brown said. “I had a feeling we would get it done today. Our bats were hot.
“I think over the weekend we were kind of tense about it. Now there’s a little pressure off. We can get back to playing like we should.”
Vermillion, a primary starting pitcher, along with Alex Parks (Plainfield Central), Mike Hamilton (Lockport) and Jared Steck, agreed that “maybe we were a little tense, a little tight, Saturday. But we got through today OK.”
“The kids were real excited about trying to get it done Saturday and did too much thinking about it,” King said. “I deeply appreciate them wanting to do it for me.
“Getting it done today, that’s fine and dandy. To have it happen here (at the field that bears his name), that means a lot.”