Bill Collier has a vested interest in the Spartanburg Methodist College baseball team when it competes this weekend in the Eastern District playoffs for a berth in the Junior College World Series.
Collier coached Bishop England High School to two state titles with the help of star pitcher Jimmy Lindberg. Now Lindberg is pitching for Spartanburg Methodist, and the affable Collier is rooting for his former player. The Pioneers (43-16) play Hartford (Md.) Community College (45-13) in a best-of-three series beginning today at 1 p.m. All games will be played in Spartanburg.
Collier played in the Junior College World Series in 1984 when he was a member of the Allegany Community College team from Cumberland, Md. He earned a spot on the World Series all-tournament team.
Collier says Lindberg will have a lifetime of memories if he gets to the World Series, which begins next weekend in Grand Junction, Colo.
“I will never forget my experience,” Collier said. “We had a crazy schedule to get there. And once we made the World Series, our college president wanted to make it historic. Every other team flew out, but we took the bus because our president wanted us to see the country. It took 4½ days to get there. There was a lot of bonding, and McDonald’s.”
Lindberg said he has lost 20 pounds thanks to a strenuous fitness program and has picked up a couple of mph on his fastball. He’s refining his curveball and changeup.
The results have been rewarding for Lindberg and his team. He has pitched in 11 games with five starts heading into this weekend. He is 4-1 with a save and has allowed only 25 hits in 36 innings. He’s struck out 32 batters with just 12 walks. Opponents are batting .184 against Lindberg, who has an ERA of 1.49.
“It was a slight transition from Bishop England,” Lindberg said. “It’s a good school, has small classes and good baseball. It was a good fit. It would be remarkable to play in the world series my first year. My coaches said it’s something you never forget.”
Spartanburg Methodist is a small junior college with less than 1,000 students. But when it comes to baseball, the school is mighty. More than 100 members of the baseball team went on to play pro ball.
Notable alumni include Reggie Sanders, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Mookie Wilson, who played for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.
Dwight Smith, who played for the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves, also played at Spartanburg Methodist, as did four-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson of the Minnesota Twins.
Lindberg hopes to use his experience at Spartanburg Methodist as a springboard to a four-year school.
He said Clemson has talked to his coaches, and the College of Charleston is showing interest.
“I just want to get to the next level,” Lindberg said. “I know I can play Division I.”
Lindberg is one of three players from the Lowcountry on the team.
The others are Robbie Dodds of Wando and Michael Gonzalez of Stratford. Dodds is a sophomore outfielder who is batting .303 with seven doubles, two homers and 33 RBIs.
Gonzalez is a freshman utility player who redshirted.
The Lowcountry’s pipeline to Spartanburg Methodist is healthy and should continue to grow. James Island pitcher Josh Escoffier and Summerville infielder/outfielder Matt White will be freshmen at SMC in the fall.
Follow Phil Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.