(from Gary Stallard/AC Athletics)

When the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians square off in Sunday’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series, the starting pitchers for each team will include a former Angelina College Roadrunner facing…another former AC Roadrunner. 

Scheduled to take the bump for the Red Sox will be Clay Buchholz, while the Indians will trot out Josh Tomlin. The two have yet to face one another in a major league contest, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t competed against each other in the past.

When Buchholz arrived at Angelina College in 2005, he had designs on becoming the team’s starting shortstop. The problem? The Roadrunners already had pretty good one in place...Josh Tomlin.

AC head coach Jeff Livin recalls meeting with Buchholz early in the season.

“Clay arrived here during Josh’s sophomore season,” Livin says. “Clay actually transferred here because he wanted to be a shortstop. I tried telling him, ‘We’ve got one, and he’s probably one of the best I’ve ever had at that position.’ Clay told me he was going to beat him out.

“But after about the fourth day of practice, Clay came in to see me. ‘You know, Coach, that guy’s pretty good.’”

Livin said despite Buchholz’s initial disappointment, things worked out for the better for both players.

“Things evolved and transpired so that Josh’s ability at shortstop probably allowed him to rest his arm more,” Livin says. “We didn’t even have him in our rotation just because he was so good where he was. Besides, we already had a great staff that year with two All-Americans, Clay and Aaron Odom. But Clay evolved so much as a pitcher that we knew we didn’t need him in the infield. We put him in right so we could give him the opportunity to rest his arm. It became pretty apparent when things started clicking for him on the mound in the late fall that he was going to make his money as a pitcher. That’s not the guy you wanted in the infield.”

Livin says while both players showed plenty of potential, there was no way to foresee just how far they would take their talents. Buchholz became the first Red Sox rookie to throw a no-hitter when he tagged the Baltimore Orioles with a no-no in 2007. Earlier this year, Tomlin’s name was among those mentioned among Cy Young Award candidates when he opened this season with an 8-1 record. On May 20 of this year, he became the first Indians pitcher with two hits – with one of those a double – in a single game since 1972.

“Josh we knew was going to become a draft-worthy pitcher, but he’s still come so far,” Livin says. “He’s a guy who never says or accepts ‘No’. He just keeps going out and winning games, and he’s proved he belongs in the big leagues.”

Two players competing on major league baseball’s big stage, both of whom received instruction and guidance from the same JUCO coach, is highly unusual. And had the Miami Marlins, who finished third in the NL East, qualified for the playoffs, Livin would have laid claim to another former Roadrunner in the spotlight: Andrew Cashner, who pitched at Angelina College from 2006 to 2007.

Three of his former players in the post-season simultaneously?

“Sure, why not,” Livin laughs. “The dream was either to have two of them match up in the playoffs or to have all three pitching in an All-Star game. I really thought Josh had a shot this year, but he didn’t get the chance. Clay’s been there before, and I think it’s just a matter of time for Andrew. You’re talking about the best baseball players in the world when it comes to the major leagues, and for these three to come out of the same junior college program and get as far as they have is remarkable.”

Livin says the only tough part of watching Sunday’s game will be trying to find a way for both his guys to win.

“It’s going to keep me glued to a TV set Sunday afternoon, that’s for sure,” Livin says. “All I want is a nothing-nothing game into the seventh and let one of the bullpens lose it. I hope our two guys have great games against each other.”

Game 3 of the American League Division Series will air at 3 p.m. (CST) on TBS.

Clay Buchholz pitches batting practice at AC/Photo Credit - Gary Stallard