The Crowder Roughriders had a tremendous 2010 campaign that concluded with a trip to Grand Junction, Colo., and a fifth place finish at the JUCO World Series.

The Crowder Roughriders had a tremendous 2010 campaign that concluded with a trip to Grand Junction, Colo., and a fifth place finish at the JUCO World Series.

“Last year set a higher expectation for us,” Crowder head baseball coach Travis Lallemand said. “But at the same time, that was last year’s club and this is this year’s — we need to establish our own identity.”

After an outstanding 43-24 season a year ago, the Roughriders bring 15 players from last season’s roster back for 2011.

Offensively, Crowder returns six players that appeared in the lineup at least 45 times in 2010. Most notably, Colby Roberts, who set a school record with 91 runs scored, David Guarno (.377, 47 RBI) and John Neill (.337 36 RBI, started 55 games at catcher).

“A lot of our sophomores had big roles last year,” Lallemand said. “Offensively we have a lot of experience returning.”

Also returning offensively for Lallemand’s squad is Koby Peebles. Peebles finished 2010 ranked in the top 10 in the nation with a .474 batting average and also drove in 49 runs in only 38 games.

“Peebles had a big impact in the post season,” Lallemand said. “He missed a lot of time due to injury last season.”

Lallemand is confident not only in his offense, but also in an experienced pitching staff coming back.

Presumably, Tim Bado will start the season as the No. 1 starter after going 9-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 2010. Bado also fanned 67 batters on the year. Behind him, Brandon Taylor, Kyle Williams, Kyle Seithel, and Scott McFall also return from last year.

“We have over 350 innings pitched returning from last year,” Lallemand said. “One of our strengths is definitely going to be our starting pitching. McFall led us in innings all year and he gives you a quality start every time out.”

Chance Cleveland was injured in 2010, but his return figures to solidify the back end of the bullpen for the Roughriders.

In addition to the wealth of experience that Crowder returns, there is also some new blood to be excited about for 2011.

Ethan Mather out of Ozark, Mo., originally committed to Arizona State out of high school before moving closer to home. He sat out 2010 with an injury.

“Ethan is still a freshman athletically,” Lallemand said. “He is throwing really well for us right now and he will be a huge part of the staff if he can stay healthy.”

Also joining the Roughriders is Justin Treece out of Sherwood, Ark. A transfer from Southern Arkansas, Treece will likely play shortstop for Coach Lallemand when the season opens.

“Treece is a rangy kid that is probably 155 pounds soaking wet,” Lallemand joked. “But he has a big motor and we expect him to have a good year for us.”

Local product Kyle Dickens is also joining the roster this year.

“Dickens is swinging the bat really well this offseason,” Lallemand commented. “It will be how well he learns a new defensive position (he has been working out at second and third base at Crowder) that will dictate how much time he will see.”

Although this team is not the same one that made it to Grand Junction last year, a new benchmark has been set. Despite a fifth place finish in 2010, it seems that not everyone is sold on the Crowder Roughriders. The Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll has Crowder ranked No. 7 in the nation.

However, the NJCAA poll doesn’t have Crowder ranked in the top 25 at all; although they are in the “others receiving votes” category.

“Maybe another World Series trip will earn us some well deserved respect,” Lallemand said.

Crowder’s season was supposed to begin Saturday with a 9-inning matchup with NEO A&M until weather played havoc on those plans. So now, the Roughriders will travel to Panola, Texas, on Feb. 12 to open the season with a three-game weekend series on the road. The Roughriders’ first home game will be Feb. 16 against Ft. Scott — weather permitting, of course.