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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Roughriders to play for Region 16 title

  • There came a time during Saturday’s game against Maple Woods Community College when Crowder baseball coach Travis Lallemand huddled his team in front of the dugout, raised his chin, looked his men in their eyes and called himself out.
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  • There came a time during Saturday’s game against Maple Woods Community College when Crowder baseball coach Travis Lallemand huddled his team in front of the dugout, raised his chin, looked his men in their eyes and called himself out.
    Seconds earlier the Roughriders, with their season on the line in the Region 16 Tournament, rallied from a 4-0 deficit with three runs. They still had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning when Blake Wilfong lifted a shallow floater to left. Lallemand, coaching third base, thought the ball would get down for a hit and put the runners in motion. The left fielder, Marcus Brown, raced in and made a diving, highlight-reel catch and doubled off the runner at second. The rally was over. Crowder’s season remained in limbo.
    Now here stood Lallemand, taking blame for making the wrong decision on what was an extremely tough call on the fly. Regardless, he asked the team to “pick me up” — sports lingo akin to asking someone to bail you out.
    They listened. With their backs against the wall, they bailed their coach out. They picked him up. They picked themselves up. They picked on the opposing pitchers. They picked up three more runs. They picked up a 6-4 win in that game over Maple Woods at Joplin’s Wendell Redden Stadium. They picked up a chance to play in the championship game against Mineral Area, the No. 6 seed, later in the gay. They picked up another win in that one, too, beating the Cardinals 9-4.
    They’ll play today for the Region 16 title at 1 p.m. against that same Mineral Area team. With their ace, Mark Reyes, slated to take the mound, the Region 16 crown is, well, ripe for the picking.
    It’s been no easy journey to get to this point for the Roughriders. They cruised to a win on Wednesday behind a stellar performance from Reyes. Then the rain came on Thursday and it didn’t look like they’d be able to play their 7 p.m. game against Mineral Area. But after pushing back the start time to 9 p.m., the teams did battle in a game that didn’t end until the wee hours of Friday, with Crowder squandering a 4-0 lead and then the game to the Cardinals, 5-4.
    With one loss separating them from a seat at home for the remainder of 2014, the Roughriders bounced back on Friday with a 5-2 win over Three Rivers in an elimination game. They followed that up with a game against Jefferson College on Friday, trailing 4-1 in that one before storming back to run-rule the rival Vikings in eight innings, 14-6, to send the No. 1 seed and tournament host packing.
    Page 2 of 3 - All of that craziness spilled over into Saturday, where the Roughriders found themselves on the ropes again in a 4-0 hole in the fifth inning against Maple Woods. Despite having only two hits going into the sixth, the Roughriders finally tagged Monarchs southpaw starter Jaren Kutzke in the sixth for three runs on four hits. It could have been much worse if not for Brown’s aforementioned snag in left.
    Crowder’s primary closer all season, J.D. Miller stepped up for his team and took the ball for the Roughriders against the Monarchs and went seven innings, scattering seven hits and allowing four runs with three strikeouts. He pitched the Roughriders out of a jam with runners at second and third and one out in the sixth, then breezed through a quick seventh.
    Down to their final three outs in the top of the ninth, the Roughriders got a leadoff single by Blake Wilfong before Ryan Lazo socked a one-out single down the line in right to move Wilfong into scoring position at third.
    That’s when sophomore Ty White, who is hitting a robust .536 for the tournament — an average that was over .600 at the start of this game — socked a single to score Wilfong with the tying run. Chris Scroggins followed with a single to right of his own to score Lazo and give the Roughriders a 5-4 lead. Sam Hilliard followed Scroggins and squibbed an infield single up the line at third to score White from third to make it 6-4.
    Sophomore starter Cody Jones, who started Thursday’s game, took the ball in relief and earned the win after striking out three over two perfect innings. Hilliard finished with three hits and two RBIs, while Scroggins had two hits and two RBIs. White and Garrett Mays also had two hits in the game, while Wilfong and Lazo had a hit.
    That set the stage for the second game of the day — the first of what will now be two title games against the Cardinals in the double elimination tournament. Aside from the 0-0 score to open the game, this one was never really close.
    Crowder plated three runs in the top of the first, thanks to an RBI single by Hilliard and a two-out, two-run single by Tyler McKinzie to center. They got another on a throwing error in the third and made it 5-0, then added a run in the fourth when Scroggins tripled to right to score Lazo. White later singled in the sixth to score Jordan Dey, and then scored on a single by Hilliard to make it 7-0.
    “It’s definitely nice to play with a lead,” Lallemand said. “(The Cardinals) swing the bats well, so to get that lead against them is pretty big. They’ve got big inning capability. You’ve just got to make sure you score enough with them to keep them uncomfortable, so to speak.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Another pitcher used mainly in relief this season, Bryant Haralson took the ball in this one for the Roughriders and dazzled with five scoreless innings before running into trouble and allowing three runs in the sixth. That would be his only blemish of the outing, as he scattered eight hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter to earn the win.
    Branden Bohuslav followed in relief and allowed an unearned run on two hits with a strikeout in two innings. Richie Peoples worked the final inning and struck out two while not allowing a hit.
    If the Roughriders do indeed win the tournament, they can look back on the clutch mound performances of Haralson and Miller on Saturday as being a major factor among a week’s worth of clutch performances.
    “That’s what it takes to win the championship when you lose a game early as we did,” Lallemand added. “Haralson and Miller both stepped up. Two six and seven-inning outings from out pitching staff was absolutely huge. Now we’ve got a full bullpen for (today).
    Hilliard again led the team with three hits, as did Lazo. Hilliard and McKinzie, who also had two hits, both had two RBIs, while White and Scroggins had two hits apiece. Casey Vaughan, Wilfong and Dey had a hit each.
    While the Roughriders figure to have some of their top arms ready to throw today, Lallemand said they’re not about to allow perspective to evade them.
    “We went into a district game with a 10 game winner in 2010 and got beat 24-6,” Lallemand said. “So I don’t put the wagon before the horse. (We’re) going to have to go out and pitch well against a really good lineup. We feel good about it, but we’re not overconfident by any stretch. We know what we’ve got to do to hoist that trophy at the end of the day tomorrow. It comes down to another one-game season tomorrow for the championship. It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got to come out with the same intent.”
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