KEYSER - Exactly 25 years ago May 25, perhaps the most notable team accomplishment in Mineral County sports history occurred. On that date, May 25, 1995, the Potomac State Catamounts defeated Kirkwood Community College of Iowa 5-2 to claim the Division II Junior College baseball national championship.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Exactly 25 years ago May 25, perhaps the most notable team accomplishment in Mineral County sports history occurred. On that date, May 25, 1995, the Potomac State Catamounts defeated Kirkwood Community College of Iowa 5-2 to claim the Division II Junior College baseball national championship.
No other collegiate baseball team in Mountain State history can lay claim to a college baseball national championship.
The story begins in the offseason when then head coach Doug Little left Potomac State after leading the Catamounts to back to back Junior College World Series appearances to become an assistance baseball coach at West Virginia University.
At that time Craig Rotruck and Mike Simpson were assistant coaches at Potomac State, and with the departure of Little, Rotruck was named the interim head coach in January of 1995. Simpson stayed on with the Catamounts as an assistant coach and Rotruck brought Chris Wilson aboard to work with the pitchers.
“I was extremely nervous, at the time I was 28 years old with just a couple of years of experience as an assistant coach in college.  Doug Little had done a fantastic job.  I thought I had a pretty good grasp on conducting practices and game management, but as a head coach there’s a lot more that goes into it as far as scheduling and rescheduling vans and hotels, keeping track of scholarships and rules, etc.,” Rotruck explained-
In reading Mineral News-Tribune articles from the 1995 season, Sports Editor Scott Allen was clear in saying, “From top to bottom, Potomac State was a baseball machine this year.  From catcher Jason Vindich, who hit .465, to the most sparingly employed player on the roster, this year’s Cats had no weaknesses.  They had hitting, pitching, defense and yes, coaching.”
Rotruck agrees with Allen’s assessment, “I compare the talent of that team to that of a very good Division I team.  The reason for that is that we had five or six Division 1, pro-prospect pitchers.  I’m not saying we would have won against Division I teams because those kids would have been so much more mature, but we had kids that were Division I to pro-prospect caliber athletes.”
“Mike Duvall our number one pitcher got drafted and ended up playing in the major leagues with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Chris Reyes who was a left-handed pitcher was the World Series MVP.  Chad Cooper got drafted by the Mets.  Steve Beller accepted a scholarship to WVU,” Rotruck stated.  
According to Rotruck, “I had two All-Americans, shortstop Brendan Dougherty who went on to play at Coastal Carolina, and catcher Jason Vindich that went on to play at Coastal Carolina.  Mark Salvatore played first base and batted ninth, he won a national championship with us and then went on to win two more national championships.  Tony Allen played left field he got drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Loaded with talent and well-coached, Potomac State would ultimately finish the season as national champions with an overall record of 40-6.  More impressive is the fact that the Catamounts ended the season on a 31-game win streak.
If you do the math, that means the Cats started the season with a record of 9-6 in their first 15 games, a far cry from the 31-game win streak they would end it on.  Rotruck explained that those early losses were mostly attributed to an early season trip to Florida in which Potomac State faced southern teams that had a leg-up, having been outside playing in baseball weather all year, and ready to hit the ground running.
“Those teams we were playing down there didn’t know anything about indoor workouts or snow,” Rotruck stated.  “We’re going down, it could have been our first, second, or third time outside.  Going undefeated in Jacksonville at the beginning of the season was not the goal.  The goal was to be ready to play when we got back.”
According to Rotruck, “I can remember losing a game at home to CCAC-South out of Pittsburgh.  We lost in a very close game by a run or so.  We sat down with the kids and had a heart to heart with them, telling them we really need to get this thing moving,” Rotruck stated.  “We’re way too good to have them playing with us, let alone beating us.  Then something started to click.”
After a successful regular season and Region XX tournament, the Catamounts advanced to the Division II Junior College World Series in Millington, Tennessee.  In total, Potomac State played in and won all four contests during the eight day road trip in claiming the top prize.
In game one, the Cats defeated Delaware Tech 10-0 in five innings after a dominating performance on the mound from Chris Reyes.  Reyes struck out six and gave up no walks in the five inning victory, keeping his pitch count very low, a fact that would come to pay dividends.  
In game two, Potomac State defeated Macomb Community College of Michigan quite handily, with Mike Duval being the winning pitcher in that game.  
In game three, Reyes again took the mound again, this time against Lincoln Land Community College of Springfield, Illinois, the defending national champion.  As Rotruck explains it, Petersburg’s Chad Cooper was supposed to get the start but 15 minutes before the biggest game of the season, Cooper falls victim to a neck injury. As such, Reyes, on extreme short notice, got the nod, and went on to pitch nine innings, strike out 10, and lead the Catamounts to a 5-2 victory over the defending champs.
Those three victories set up the championship game against Kirkwood Community College of Iowa.  Kirkwood ended up eliminating Lincoln Land but was faced with the prospect of having to defeat Potomac State twice to earn the championship.  The Catamounts, however, ended up getting a tremendous pitching performance from Mike Duvall to defeat Kirkwood 4-2 and claim the national championship victory.
According to Rotruck, “We got a great pitching performance from Mike Duval, he went eight innings, struck out 14, walked three and gave up three hits, one of them being a two-run homer.  Steve Beller, who went on to play at WVU, closed the game out for us in the ninth.  It was a tough decision for us bring Beller in because Duval had struck out the side in the eight.”
“We took a look at who was coming up next for Kirkwood and looked at how many of them were left handed, how many were right handed, and took into effect the righty-righty matchup, the lefty-lefty.  They had three right handers coming up, Beller was right handed, Duval was left handed, so we rolled the dice that day and it worked,” Rotruck explained.
In that championship game, Potomac State took an early, 1-0, bottom of the first inning lead when sophomore catcher Jason Vindich walked, moved to second on a passed ball, and came home on an RBI double from All-American Brendan Dougherty.  
In the top of the second inning, Kirkwood responded with a two-run homerun to the scoreboard in left field from Tony Meyers to take a 2-1 lead.  According to Potomac State coaches, it was likely the only bad ball Mike Duval threw all game, but it only takes one.
Trailing 2-1, Potomac State tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning.  Potomac State’s John Murphy reached first base on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI double by Keith Cox. Cox then advanced on a double by Mike Rowe and scored on an RBI double by Vindich to gain a 3-2 lead near the game’s midpoint.  
The Catamounts scored their fourth and final run in the bottom of the eighth inning when freshman outfielder Tony Allen made it on base after being hit by a pitch.  Allen then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Charlie Kuykendall and went to third on a ground ball by John Murphy.  Allen then scored on a ground ball by Keith Cox, taking the tally to the final score of 4-2.
Potomac State concluded the World Series with six players named to the all-tournament team, Brendan Dougherty, Jason Vindich, Charlie Kuykendall, John Murphy, Mike Duvall and Chris Reyes.  Reyes was named the most valuable player.
“Everybody at the beginning of the season says their goal is to win a national championship, but the reality is that only a few select teams in the whole country that will end the season with a win.  For us to be one of those, you really can’t put words on it,” Rotruck stated. “To be considered the best team in the country, and that’s not us in Keyser, West Virginia talking about how good our team is, that’s the whole country telling you that you’re the best.”
The Catamounts won that national championship on Thursday, May 25.  Two days later, they were warmly greeted back home with a celebratory parade. Law enforcement officials from Potomac State, Keyser PD, the West Virginia State Police and Mineral County Sheriff’s Office picked up the escort two miles south of town.  They were joined near Pizza Hut by units from the Keyser, New Creek and Fountain Volunteer Fire Departments along with Keyser’s Emergency Services for an escort all throughout town, culminating a stop at their final destination, the Davis Hall Cafeteria on campus which had been decorated in their honor.
According to Rotruck, “It was overwhelming, it still brings chills to me now that I speak about it.  I was getting frustrated with the bus driver as he seemed to be taking detours on back roads in Davis, WV.  I asked him ‘what are we doing here?’ It turns out he was instructed to drag his feet and show up in Keyser at a certain time, but I wasn’t aware of it.”
“When we got there, there was a parade, the business owners were coming out and there were people along the street.  It was everything you could think of and then some.  The people of Keyser and the surrounding areas did an excellent job.  There was a ceremony when we arrived, it was really overwhelming,” Rotruck explained.
For his efforts and the efforts of his assistant coaches, Rotruck was named the Junior College National Coach of the Year.  25 years later, he is the head coach of the Potomac State softball team.
“I like to think that I had a pretty good playing career, I was fortunate to do a few things that many other players didn’t get a chance to do.  But to be part of this team, the memories, the friends, the camaraderie.  I still speak to a lot of these players still at this time.  To be associated with something that nobody can ever take away from you is special.  To be the best in the country for one year, it’s overwhelming really,” Rotruck reflects.
Looking back on Mineral County sports history, it’s impossible to find a team accomplishment that rivals Potomac State’s 1995 national baseball championship.  That team brought honor to themselves, their coaches, their school, the City of Keyser, Mineral County and the entire state of West Virginia.  25 years later, the accomplishment is remembered.