All it took for coach Travis Lallemand was a quick glance at the schedule to know that his Crowder Roughriders were going to have a tough row to hoe in the 2013 baseball season. His team would come out of that month battle-tested, he said, and they’d know a little more about themselves once they made it through the brutal gamut.
It seems they were prepared.
Here’s what we know: All the Roughriders have done is start the season 10-1 overall, earned the No. 6 ranking in the nation, and just swept the No. 1 team in the nation in two-time defending NJCAA National Champion Iowa Western in a doubleheader on Sunday at Roughrider Field, 2-1, 4-2.
A constant for the Roughriders this season has been their pitching, which has been solid, even spectacular at times, good defense and timely hitting. That was the case again on Sunday against the Reivers as starter Chris Caudle and closer Andrew Schwaab combined to dazzle their potent lineup. Caudle, a sophomore from Greenwood, Ark., admitted he didn’t have his best stuff, yet it didn’t matter as he escaped a few early jams and allowed just one run on six hits in six innings on the hill. He also struck out a batter and walked one while working out of jams in each of the first three innings.
“The first three, four innings, whatever, I didn’t really have my good stuff,” Caudle said. “I definitely want to congratulate the defense for being back there for me the whole time. Without that kind of support, that ballgame could have been completely different.”
The Reivers stranded a runner at second in each of the first two innings. A double by Tyler Ware with one out in the third put runners at second and third, but again Caudle wriggled out of the mess by coaxing a pop up to second and a grounder to first.
The Roughriders, meanwhile, drew first blood to break a scoreless tie in the fifth when Ty White was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, moved to second on a walk to Chris Scroggins and scored when Josh Johnston deposited a single to right.
Still leading 1-0 in the sixth, the Roughriders would add a crucial insurance run. The rally began with one out in the inning when Tony Sandifer topped a ball to third base and reached on an error. He then moved to third on a single by designated hitter Matt Burgess, and later scored on a sac fly by White to make it 2-0.
Caudle then allowed successive singles to open the seventh before being lifted for Schwaab. A sac bunt and a grounder to second brought home a run before Schwaab forced Adam Morey to pop up to the catcher to end it.
Page 2 of 2 - “I believe (Schwaab) probably has some of the best movement from a righthander on the team,” Caudle said. “And his slider is probably one of the best out pitches. It’s definitely nice to have Schwaab back there, and (Cody) Jackson too.”
More fireworks followed in the nightcap as the Roughriders again leaned on timely hitting and solid work out of the bullpen to secure the 4-3 win. Righty Preston Tarkington started on the hill and went four innings, scattering three runs on seven hits while striking out six and walking one.
The Reivers struck first in the third inning when Matt Kianka led off the inning with an opposite field homer to left off of Tarkington to make it 1-0. The Roughriders, however, would answer with two runs in the third on RBI singles from Ryan Lazo and Lucas Feddersen to make it 2-1.
The Reivers answered again with two more in the top of the fourth. An RBI single by George Gugino tied it at 2-2 before Tarkington hit a batter with the bases loaded to drive in Jordan Schlehuber with two outs to make it 3-2.
With the Roughriders on the ropes in the sixth, catcher C.J. Webster would fight them out of the corner and delivered the knock-out blow with one out when he delivered a two-run single to right off of reliever Zach Larrison to drive in Scroggins and Johnson, who doubled in the inning, to make it 4-3. Schwaab nailed down the save in the seventh, allowing a hit and striking out two in the frame.
Sophomore reliever Cody Jackson picked up the win after tossing two scoreless innings. Webster collected two hits in the game, while Lazo, Johnston, White, Feddersen and Cody Althouse had a hit apiece. Burgess had two hits in game one.
“Well, we’re off to a really good start and we’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of guys, both on the mound and offensively” Lallemand said. “In the first 11 games we’ve had great pitching and great starts. That’s allowed us to get deep into games with our bullpen guys and they’ve been nothing short of outstanding.
“We kind of have that never die attitude,” he added. “Scrappy group. We find ways to get guys on and set up that big hit, and it’s been different guys a lot of times.”
The Roughriders are set to host Kansas City Kansas Community College in a nine-inning affair at Roughrider Field today. That game was originally scheduled to be an away game, but due to poor field conditions has been moved to Crowder.