JOPLIN — Destination: Grand Junction (Colorado), Suplizio Field and the 60th edition of the NJCAA Division I JUCO World Series.

JOPLIN — Destination: Grand Junction (Colorado), Suplizio Field and the 60th edition of the NJCAA Division I JUCO World Series.
The No. 3-ranked Crowder Roughriders punched their World Series ticket with a 7-2 win Monday over the Seminole State (Oklahoma) Trojans in the South Central District title game at Warren Turner Field, with all the elements in play that have propelled Crowder to a 52-12 overall record.
You don’t have to tell Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand, as well as assistant coaches and former Crowder players Tyler Sawyer and Kyle Williams, how long it’s been since the ‘Riders last reached the World Series.
“Back in Grand Junction for the first time since 2010,” Lallemand said. “We know what we’re doing now. Last time we went out there, we were pretty clueless and went 1-2. We’ll know how to prepare them as coaches better.”
The ‘Riders make for a very difficult out in a double-elimination tournament, given their depth of quality pitching, and they have shown that in both the Region 16 and South Central District tourneys, where they sustained just the one loss and came back for the championship both times.
“Our depth came into play in this tournament,” Lallemand said. “We lost that heartbreaker on Saturday (2-1 to Seminole State), I guess it was. All year long, these guys don’t wear that and they don’t care about all that stuff. All they’re in for is to play the next day. They just extended their season. We’re going back to Colorado. That place is an absolute heaven. This group deserves every bit of it.”
Aaron Ashby, who recorded a two-inning save in the district opener Saturday against Delgado, pitched a gem Monday against Seminole.
His final line: two runs allowed (both earned) on four hits over the nine full innings. Ashby overcame six walks with the help of four strikeouts and a sharp Crowder defense behind him. Ashby improved to 7-0 on the season and two of his wins came in championship games. Not bad for a freshman.
“He had a four-pitch mix going all day,” Lallemand said. “We knew it was going to be a good matchup. He didn’t throw against them early in the year. It was just that. He sometimes get himself in trouble pitching outside the strike zone, but when he’s in the strike zone, he’s difficult to take care of.”
Generally a slow starter who settles down and finds a groove more in the middle innings, Ashby came out strong Monday with his best start to a game all season. Ashby kept his pitch count low early on and gave himself an opportunity to go the distance.
“There’s no doubt,” Lallemand said. “We knew that he gave himself a chance to finish it.”
Ashby’s performance came against one of the most potent offenses in the nation.
In Saturday’s 2-1 game, Seminole turned three inning-ending double plays on Crowder. On Monday, Crowder turned three against Seminole, including one to end the game and a key one in the sixth that eliminated a potential tying run at the plate.
“I’ve said it for years and we had one today as well,” Lallemand said. “In these games, in these situations in postseason baseball, baserunning loses more games than anything. We had one. They had one. Theirs would have tied the game. It was a borderline baserunning mistake, but I preach to these guys all the time, you have to make sure to stay fundamental. You can’t play outside your own in these situations and expect to be successful.”
Crowder added on four insurance runs in the eighth, started by a Kyle MacDonald solo home run a pitch after he was apparently hit by a pitch but was told to come back to the box. The ‘Riders scored three more runs with a pair of bases loaded walks and a Tyler Duncan sacrifice fly.
“I was glad they kept him (MacDonald) in the box,” Lallemand said. “Him at first base, I don’t know what we’re going to do in that situation, but I wanted him to get a swing off and obviously, he did. That was absolutely huge. Even if it stayed 4-2, the way it played out, that’s a big situation right there. … Our approaches were really good in that eighth inning and we rewarded the walk in situations. We didn’t chase ‘em out of the strike zone and put up a big inning.”
Crowder took an early 2-0 lead behind some big two-out hits in the first. Elvis Peralta doubled, MacDonald doubled to score Peralta and MacDonald scored on a Luke Price double.
Seminole earned a 2-all score after single runs in the third and fourth. Seminole worked a pair of walks in the third and Gunner Halter made Crowder pay with a RBI single, but the ‘Riders ended the inning by turning a double play. Landen Kimbro led off the Seminole fourth with a triple and scored on a Breydon Daniel sacrifice fly.
Crowder took a 3-2 lead on a Jacob Adams single in the fourth, scoring Cameron Witt, and that advantage held until the bottom of the eighth.
Crowder opens JUCO World Series play at 5 p.m. Saturday against Chipola (Marianna, Florida), Region 8 champions and a 45-8 team ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“We’re going to get some information on Chipola and all those guys,” Lallemand said. “We’ve talked about it being us. The one thing I told ‘em in January, ‘Give me the opportunity to say ‘Today, we are who we are.’ That’s exactly what we were.”

Seminole      001 100 000 — 2  4  0
Crowder        200 100 04X — 7 10 0
Gabriel Littlejim, Caleb Lee (4), Brett Lora (8), Trey Jeans (8), Gunner Halter (8) and Sebastain Toro. Aaron Ashby and Michael Miller. WP: Ashby. LP: Lee. HR: Kyle MacDonald. 3B: Landen Kimbro. 2B: MacDonald 2, Kobe Morris, Luke Price, Elvis Peralta. SB: Peralta. HBP: Cameron Witt. LOB: Seminole 4, Crowder 8.