JOPLIN — The No. 16-ranked Crowder Roughriders proved that both patience and persistence pay off during their 13-2 victory Wednesday night against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Part 2 of the ‘Battle on the Border’ at historic Joe Becker Stadium.
Crowder trailed NEO 1-0 after four innings played, but the ‘Riders scored two runs in the fifth, three in the sixth, two in the seventh, two in the eighth, and four in the ninth.
Crowder received contributions from just about every spot in the lineup and freshman pitcher Tanner Norris proved strong on the hill with one run allowed (earned) on six hits with three strikeouts and two walks over seven innings. Bryce Libke finished it off with a couple strong innings of relief.
Crowder improved to 39-13 overall and the ‘Riders return to Joe Becker on Friday to close out their regular season with a doubleheader against Fort Scott (Kansas).
“We didn’t start out on the board very well (Wednesday),” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said, “but we had some quality at-bats there early and just didn’t have much to show for it, then just finally got a runner on and (Jack) Stroth had two really good two-strike at-bats to start his day … and he got the ball out of the yard. That’s what we needed to do.
“That’s what we talked about down the line. It’s the last three games this week and it’s just about playing your best baseball at the right time, getting some momentum and head of steam going into the postseason because it’s been an up-and-down April for us. Just playing well and going in with confidence is important.”
The ‘Riders are 14-4 in April with three of the losses in Region 16 play, two last weekend against State Fair.
“We’ve been without a few arms,” Lallemand said, “but it’s given guys opportunities to step up. Just like Norris. He wasn’t a starter necessarily early in March, but he was outstanding tonight. (Bryce) Libke, who was out of the mix coming into April, that arm’s starting to come around and look like the guy that we recruited. That’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle in the bullpen going into the tournament for sure.”
Crowder and NEO played both games this season at Joe Becker, unlike previous seasons where the teams played two home-and-home games. The ‘Riders have two more chances on Friday to play on the field where the Region 16 tournament championship will be determined.
“It’s a different environment,” Lallemand said. “Obviously, we play our tournament here, so as many times late as we can play here, I think it’s important, just to get the feel of the ballpark and plays, baserunning, sliding, you name it, every aspect of the game is important when you’re here. What a great, unique opportunity we have to play up here … we’ve got to win the sub-regional first, I don’t want to put the chicken before the egg, but at the same time, you’ve got an opportunity to play on this field a couple times to where you’re not coming in on unfamiliar territory. That’s been big for us the past couple years.”
Crowder won a Region 16 title two seasons ago at Joe Becker en route to the JUCO World Series.
Stroth began the scoring for Crowder with a two-run home run, following up on a Rod Criss double. Jorden Hussein’s two-run double highlighted Crowder’s sixth. Colten Nix hit a two-run shot in the seventh. Freilin Cabrera had a RBI double and Sam Chaput a RBI single in the eighth. Hussein, Cameron Tissue, and Cabrera connect on consecutive RBI hits in the ninth, Tissue’s single bringing home two rather than one run each on Hussein and Cabrera hits.
Hussein led Crowder with three hits and three RBI, Stroth added two hits and three RBI, and Tissue, Cabrera, and Chaput each had two hits with two RBI each for Tissue and Cabrera and one for Chaput. Cabrera was the only Crowder player Wednesday who did not score a run and he was called out at the plate late in the game.
NEO, meanwhile, dropped to 19-25 overall and the Golden Norse have a four-game series against Seminole State beginning Friday.
On Wednesday, former Neosho High standout and NEO sophomore Colton Marion came through with a single against Norris.