The Wellington Heat are one of the select few prestige programs left that regularly contend at the NBC World Series.
It’s hardly a surprise the Heat have advanced to Friday’s late semifinal game against the NJCAA National Team at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The Santa Barbara Foresters play the San Antonio Angels in the other semifinal.
The Heat are used to competing against the likes of the Foresters, Seattle Studs, Liberal Bee Jays and El Dorado Broncos, a group of five programs that have combined to win 11 of the past 12 NBC World Series.
But the Heat, who won the 2007 championship while based in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., have a chance to distinguish themselves amongst their peers. If they win their next two games, the Heat would become the first program in the tournament’s 83-year history to win titles based in different states.
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“Our culture is that we expect to win,” Heat manager Rick Twyman said. “We’ve been coming to the NBC World Series for decades and we’ve had a lot of great finishes and great runs. We’re getting the same timely hitting and great pitching we expect. This is just a typical Heat team and we’re looking for one more great run.”
After playing in Arizona for nearly two decades, the Heat moved to Kansas in 2010 and were originally based in Haysville, playing in the Jayhawk League. After three summers, the Heat made the transition to Wellington and Kansas Collegiate League Baseball.
Through it all, the success has remained the same.
The Heat were the dominant team in the KCLB this summer, compiling a 30-7 record and winning the league by four games. The success has carried over into Championship Week at the NBC World Series, where the Heat have won all four of their games, including a tense 4-3 victory in an elimination game against the Seattle Studs on Thursday.
This is the closest the team has come to the championship game since losing to the Studs for the title in 2013.
“This means a lot to us because we’ve been wanting to win the World Series for a while now,” Twyman said. “We’re always qualified here and we normally make it somewhere in the top 10. The kids are playing well right now and it’s nice to be back in this position again.”
It’s an added bonus to be the last Kansas team remaining in the field, which means the crowd will be pro-Heat as they try to become the first Kansas-based team to win a title here since the Liberal Bee Jays won in 2010.
“Obviously the fans want to see a local team do well and we just so happen to be the last Kansas team left,” Twyman said. “There’s some pride in that and we’re going to do our best to take care of business.”
But a win on Friday to punch a ticket to Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game would have more meaning to Twyman, who is still chasing a championship since his father, Dick, who was the team’s long-time owner, died in 2011.
The Heat came close in 2013 when they reached the finals, but Twyman said winning it all would mean a lot to not only himself, but to the others in the organization who have been with the team for a long time.
“It would for sure be emotional,” Twyman said. “We would be playing for the world title for (my father). It would mean a lot to win one for him.”