Century College will travel to the NJCAA Division 3 World Series this weekend in North Carolina without any debate from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities leadership.
The Wood Ducks beat St. Cloud Tech 9-5 in the district championship game on Saturday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud. Century College (38-11), the junior college located in White Bear Lake, is returning to the eight-team world series for the second straight year and third time in the past four years.
Just three weeks ago, MnSCU banned Century College and the rest of its athletic programs from traveling to North Carolina, ultimately ending several baseball teams’ dream of winning a national championship.
The MnSCU directive stood in support of Gov. Mark Dayton’s statement last month to prohibit state employees and agencies from travel to North Carolina in response to its law banning transgender people from using locker rooms and bathrooms designated for the gender with which they identify.
“It was definitely a relief when the travel ban was overturned,” said Dwight Kotila, Century College baseball coach and athletic coordinator. “I think the players all learned that nothing should be taken for granted in life, and that opportunities like playing in a world series should be appreciated that much more.”
The uproar arguably limited the ban to just two days. MnSCU immediately reconsidered its decision and after the federal government took action against North Carolina, the ban was dropped.
At the time of the ban, Century College and St. Cloud Tech were consider among the favorites to play in the NJCAA Division 3 World Series in Kinston, N.C. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State were favorites to compete for a spot in the NCAA Division 2 national tournament hosted in Cary, N.C.
St. Cloud State swept Minnesota Duluth the day after the disappointing news dropped and finished the regular season with a 31-8 record. The Huskies won their conference tournament and entered the Division 2 Central Regional as the host and No. 1 seed. However, Minnesota State upset St. Cloud State in the first round of the double-elimination tournament and the Huskies never made it out of the loser’s bracket.
The Mavericks won their first two games, but lost back-to-back games in the winner’s and loser’s bracket semifinals to eliminate all Minnesota teams from the tournament.
Minnesota Duluth, which is part of the University of Minnesota system and was not affected by the ban, lost its first two games of the regional.
St. John's, which also is not part of MnSCU and would have traveled to Appleton, Wis., for its world series, lost in the NCAA Division 3 Midwest Regional final last weekend.
The NJCAA Division 3 World Series kicks off Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. with Century College facing off against Tyler Junior College (Texas). The Wood Ducks' baseball program is only 6 years old, but finished fourth last season and were national runner-up three years ago.