High-quality bullpen work and timely hitting that produced some big innings helped the No. 7-ranked Crowder Roughriders sweep the No. 12 Jefferson Vikings in a twinbill Friday at Roughrider Field, 7-6 and 8-6.
The ‘Riders received solid work from flamethrower Tyler Gregg in Game 1 and then four innings of work from Jack Jumper and Colten Weber in Game 2.
Overall, the bullpen combined on 5 2/3 innings of scoreless work and just surrendered a combined three hits.
Now, that’s pitching it and a great start to the four-game opening Region 16 weekend series for the ‘Riders.
“Biggest thing is two iffy starts out of our starters and the bullpen really stepped up,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said. “That’s been something that’s been reliable over the years, our bullpen. Those guys were pretty dang good. Gregg was good, then Jumper was outstanding and Weber came in a little shaky at the end but finished it off nice. We played in a multitude of different types of games and to see the non-start and then win, that’s the first we’ve done that without a quality start. That’s big and in Region 16 play, to get off to a 2-0 start … we’ve got two more big games (Saturday).”
After a rough offensive game Tuesday against No. 13 Neosho County, the Crowder offense responded with 15 runs against a quality Jefferson pitching staff. Crowder scored five runs in the third in Game 1 and then rattled off six runs in the third in Game 2.
“The biggest at-bat and I said it in the dugout was Cooper King’s at-bat in that six-run inning,” Lallemand said. “2-2 count and he ends up working full and gets a hit. I told the dugout that if we end up winning this game, it’s going to be that at-bat that changed the entire thing. Again, we talked about it last year and not to oversell it but everything we do is always off that key two-strike at-bat where a guy battles and finds a way. We just garner a lot of momentum off stuff like that and our bullpen made it hold up.”
This was Crowder’s first Region 16 series and Jefferson’s second, and these teams have found themselves playing for the big stakes at the region tournament in May.
“We rotate forward every year,” Lallemand said, “so coming in, obviously playing each other early, we’re going to look different come May, right or wrong or indifferent. That’s the only downside, that you see these guys early rather than late, but it’s kinda like last year in that we saw them early and we scuffled up there a little bit. Obviously, it was one of those things last year where we lost some close ballgames (to Jefferson), just like they did (Friday). It’s always to be competitive between our two groups, we’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, but (Friday) we were just a tick better.”
Crowder improved to 14-5 overall and 2-0 Region 16, while Jefferson dropped to 12-4-1 and 4-2.
Offensively, in the first game Friday, Kobe Morris led Crowder with two hits and Colten Nix led the sticks with two RBI. Luke Price homered, Morris tripled, and Samuel Chaput and Nix each doubled.
In the second game, Brinson Williams started the Crowder scoring with a solo home run and Price homered in both ends of the doubleheader. Williams hit a huge bases-clearing double. King had a pair of big hits from the bottom of the order.
Jefferson knocked five homers on the day overall.
Despite not having their best outings, Crowder starters Zach Jackson and Aaron Ashby earned victories.
Jackson allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings and struck out five and walked one. Jefferson went deep three times on Jackson.
Gregg earned the save with 1 2/3 scoreless innings and fanned three and walked two.
Ashby allowed six runs (five earned) in five innings and struck out 10 and walked three. He gave up two home runs.
Jumper pitched 2 2/3 and Weber 1 1/3 scoreless innings, combining with Ashby for a grand total of 17 strikeouts (Ashby 10, Jumper 4, Weber 3). With two runners aboard in the seventh, Weber picked up the final strikeout of the day with a clutch one in four pitches against Jefferson’s Dalton Doyle, who homered twice in the first game.
CROWDER 7, JEFFERSON 6
Jefferson 011 211 0 — 6 9 2
Crowder 105 010 X — 7 7 2
Riley Boyd, Austin Cheeley (3), Bailey Vuylsteke (6) and Jacob Kalusniak. Zach Jackson, Tyler Gregg (6) and Brinson Williams. WP: Jackson. LP: Boyd. SV: Gregg. E: Joey Polak, Jack Lombardi; Williams, Kobe Morris. HR: Dalton Doyle 2, Hunter Swift; Luke Price. 3B: Morris. 2B: Matt Turino; Colten Nix, Samuel Chaput. SF: Polak. LOB: Jefferson 8, Crowder 4.
CROWDER 8, JEFFERSON 6
Jefferson 301 020 000 — 6 8 2
Crowder 016 000 01X — 8 8 1
Josh Ray, Drake Salsman (3), Cole Milam (7), Hunter Swift (8) and Jacob Kalusniak. Aaron Ashby, Jack Jumper (6), Colten Weber (8) and Brinson Williams. WP: Ashby. LP: Ray. SV: Weber. E: Alex Hoff, Justin Perkins; Frielin Cabrera. HR: Raul Elguezabal, Justin Perkins; Luke Price, Brinson Williams. 2B: Joey Polak; Williams. SB: Dalton Doyle; Cabrera. HBP: Justin Perkins 2. LOB: Jefferson 10, Crowder 6.