Season openers aren’t supposed to go this smooth.
In every phase of the game, the Crowder baseball team was on point Wednesday as the Roughriders kicked off their 2013 season with a 4-0 blanking of the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Golden Norse at the Crowder baseball field.
Sure, it’s only one game in a season of many. And as coach Travis Lallemand put it, there are many things left to work on before the Roughriders become the team they want to be this season. But if Wednesday provided any sort of glimpse into what’s in store for this season, well, this could get good in a hurry.
Riding the arms of starter Preston Tarkington and relievers Jon Woodcock, Cody Jackson and Andrew Schwaab, the Roughriders didn’t need much from their offense, but got the production regardless as they scored four times on six hits.
Tarkington, a 6-foot-2, 200 pound right handed transfer from Panola (Tex.) College, was especially solid, yielding just one hit through five innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Behind him, Woodcock (6’0, 190 LHP) struck out four and scattered two hits over two innings, Jackson (6’4, 210 RHP) scattered two hits and struck out one in an inning and Schwaab (6’1, 170 RHP) allowed a hit and punched out one to preserve the shutout.
“You couldn’t have drawn it up any better for our staff today,” Lallemand said. “I mean, they went out and just competed, filled up the zone and made pitches in situations.”
One of those “situations” reared its head in the top of the third when the Golden Norse led off the inning by reaching on an error and a bunt single to put runners at first and second with no outs. But Tarkington stranded the runners by retiring the next three batters in order to escape the jam.
It would be smooth sailing for the righty the rest of the way, as he handed a 2-0 lead to Woodcock to start the sixth. Woodcock later escaped a bases loaded jam in the seventh with a big strikeout of nine-hole hitter Samuel Crabtree.
Offensively, the Roughriders executed well. They got on the board first in the third inning after freshman designated hitter Matt Burgess (6’4, 230) pounded an opposite field double and later scored on a bloop single by Chris Scroggins to make it 1-0. Crowder had a chance to add to the lead in the inning, but a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out with runners at first and second ended the threat.
A double by catcher C.J. Webster (6’1, 200) opened the Roughriders’ fifth, and he came around to score on an RBI groundout by leadoff man Cody Althouse (6’1, 195) to make it 2-0.
Page 2 of 2 - “We knew it was going to come down to offensive execution and controlling counts,” Lallemand said.
That execution paid off again for Crowder in the bottom of the eighth, when they manufactured a run without swinging the bat. With speedy freshmen Ty White (5’8, 170) at third base and Chris Scroggins (5’8, 150) at first, Scroggins broke for second with one out in the inning and, when the catcher threw to second, White sped home and beat the throw to make it 4-0.
That insurance run made the deficit seem insurmountable for the Golden Norse. Turns out, it was.
“Going into that inning with a four-run lead instead of a three-run was huge,” Lallemand said.
Tarkington earned the victory on the hill while Marc Berube suffered the loss for the Golden Norse after striking out five with a walk, five hits, and two runs allowed in five innings of work. Tony Sandifer and White each had two hits to lead Crowder’s offense, while Althouse, Burgess, Scroggins, Lucas Feddersen and Webster had a hit apiece.
Althouse, Scroggins and Feddersen each drove in a run.
Angel Ortiz had two hits for NEO.
“It’s one of those deals, first game, you’re all excited for it and everything,” Lallemand said. “I think there’s some things in there we can obviously clean up a little bit, but the things we talked about today, the controllables — throwing strikes, we made every play defensively, and baserunning — we did a pretty good job with.”
The Roughriders are back in action this weekend when they travel to take on Panola (Tex.) College in Carthage, Tex., for a three game series beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by two games starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.