With the start of fall workouts this week, the Crowder baseball team is beginning its trek into a new season without a host of familiar faces returning — 17 to be exact — whom helped place last season’s Roughriders into the No. 1 spot in the country for the first time in school history.
Of course, it’s only fair to expect four-year colleges to come calling in an attempt to scoop those players up and bulk up their own programs, and the Roughriders were no exception. They’ll now be taxed with replacing the talented group with what they hope is another strong recruiting class.
Perhaps the most daunting task facing the 2014 Roughriders is finding replacements in the rotation for starters Jon Woodcock, Preston Tarkington and Chris Caudle — all of whom have moved on.
Woodcock, a southpaw who finished second in the NJCAA in strikeouts last season, will pitch for the Division I Virginia Tech Hokies in 2014, while Tarkington signed with the Ole Miss Rebels. Caudle, meanwhile, is headed to the University of Central Arkansas. Closer Andrew Schwaab has taken his talents north to Columbia, Mo., where he’s expected to be a key piece to the bullpen for the Missouri Tigers in 2014.
Despite battling injuries in his two seasons at Crowder, Roughriders reliever Cody Jackson, who, when healthy, was one of the best arms on Crowder’s staff, has moved on to play at Arkansas State University, while left handed reliever Trey Watson will pitch for Columbus State University next year. Meanwhile, reliever Ryan Smith is set to pitch at Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University.
The pitching staff isn’t the only position being picked through, however, as several key offensive starters for the Roughriders will also don new digs. All-American third baseman Tony Sandifer signed with the University of Central Missouri. Other starters to move on are shortstop Lucas Feddersen (Arkansas State University), first baseman Cody Althouse (Arkansas Tech University), catcher C.J. Webster (Northwestern State (La.) University), catcher/outfielder Sam May (Southern (La.) University) and designated hitter Matt Burgess (Arkansas State University).
Also moving on are key utility players Ashton Roberts (Henderson State (Ark.) University), Tyler Rusk (University of Central Missouri), Devin Perry (Florida A&M University) and Neosho native Jared Brown (Missouri Southern State University), who will be focusing on academics at Southern after injuries put a halt to his playing career.