Jarrod Wells and his fellow TJC sophomores remember the first words from Apaches baseball coach Doug Wren back in the fall of 2015 - "Our goal is a national championship."
"This is what we sign up for," said Wells, Tyler Junior College's shortstop from Langham Creek High School in Houston.
The Apaches are close to that goal once again as they are appearing in their fourth straight NJCAA Division III World Series.
TJC is also hoping for its fourth consecutive and fifth overall national title as the tournament begins on Saturday at Pioneer Stadium in Greeneville, Tennessee.
The Apaches (37-20) are the No. 3 seed and open the World Series against No. 6 seed Prince George's (Maryland) (33-13-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
If TJC wins, the Apaches will play at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. A loss means a game at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
The double-elimination tournament continues through at least Wednesday and possibly Thursday.
Other teams entered include No. 1 seed Cumberland County (New Jersey) (53-6), No. 2 Niagara County (New York) (43-8), No. 4 Century (Minnesota) (33-12), No. 5 Northampton (Pennsylvania) (34-7), No. 7 Delta (Michigan) (34-21) and No. 8 Surry (North Carolina) (29-22-1).
The Apaches' second game will be against either Niagara County or Delta.
Since dropping the first two games of a series in Beeville against Coastal Bend, the Apaches have reeled off seven consecutive wins.
That third game against Coastal Bend was key, a 9-8 win that ensured the Apaches would host the District C Tournament, which determines the entry into the World Series.
Taylor Broadway, a freshman from Cypress, was on the mound when the Apaches clinched. The bases were loaded with two outs. He struck out the final batter to preserve the win. If not for that victory, Coastal Bend would have hosted the district tourney.
"That's what you dream about growing up, whether you are pitching and striking out the final batter or at the plate and hitting a home run," said Broadway, a graduate of Cypress Christian School in Houston. "That was a great environment and situation for us to be in."
The Apaches will now try to take that momentum to Tennessee in hopes of winning another title.
SMOKE SIGNALS: The NJCAA D-III World Series was held at Mike Carter Field in Tyler from 2007 until 2014. In 2015 and 2016, the event was held in Kinston, North Carolina, but the Tar Heel town was granted a minor league team in the Carolina League, thus forcing a move to Greeneville. Kinston and Grainger Stadium are home to the Down East Woods Ducks, the High-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. … Greeneville is in the northeast corner of Tennessee near the North Carolina border. … The town was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene. It is the only town with this spelling in the United States, although there are numerous U.S. towns named Greenville. … The town officially hosts the Greeneville Astros baseball club of the Appalachian League, though the club actually plays in the nearby city of Tusculum. … Greeneville, where President Andrew Johnson began his political career, lies at foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Johnson was a tailor in the city.