The Crowder Roughriders finished second in Region 16 play with a 25-7 mark and the ‘Riders earned the right to host No. 7 Three Rivers for the best-of-3 sub-regional series beginning Friday, of course weather permitting.
Crowder, 41-13 overall, swept four home games from Three Rivers earlier this season — 3-1, 15-2 in five innings, 10-0 in five innings, and 12-0 in five innings.
The ‘Riders enter the postseason on a four-game winning streak with three of the wins coming at Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin, host site of the upcoming Region 16 tournament.
“We call it 40-win Friday,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said after Friday’s sweep of Fort Scott. “We hit the 40-win mark and then got to 41 with that game. This group, with the weather, the injuries, and all the things that we’ve seen, to be 41-13, that’s a remarkable job of battling and doing all the things they’ve done. It’s a testament to their character and the culture of the program.
“A lot of people probably would have turned it in, especially a couple months ago when you lose your No. 1-2-3 arms. They kept battling, some freshmen got some opportunities on the mound and did a heckuva job, and we had to swing it when we needed it. Everybody picked each other up through the 54 games we played, so proud of everybody for the regular season. Hopefully, we can keep it going for the long haul.”
Crowder and Three Rivers open their series at 2 p.m. Friday and then play Game 2 at noon Saturday with the if-necessary game following 20 minutes after the first game Saturday. All games are weather permitting, of course.
A very encouraging sign for Crowder was the late regular season return of sophomore pitcher Ross Carver, who once ranked among NJCAA Division I leaders in strikeouts before he was sidelined.
Against Fort Scott, in his second start back, Carver took a no-decision but he struck out 14 and walked just one and allowed one run (earned) on four hits over his six innings of work. A two-base error and a two-out hit produced Fort Scott’s lone run.
“Five weeks, he was out,” Lallemand said. “Last Saturday (against State Fair), he wasn’t very good, so we were concerned. Now, we really feel good about him starting the sub-regional game Friday.”
For his performance against Fort Scott, Carver earned Region 16 pitcher of the week on Tuesday.
On the season, Carver owns a 6-1 record and one save with a 3.83 ERA and 89 strikeouts and 18 walks in 47 innings.
Four other pitchers have earned at least five victories — team leader Colten Weber (8-2, one save, 4.44 ERA, 78 Ks, 52.2 IP), Tanner Norris (7-0, 2.43 ERA), Beaux Bonvillain (6-2, 4.11 ERA, 36 Ks, 35 IP), and Jared Viertel (5-1, 6.93 ERA, 38 Ks, 37 2/3 IP).
Colin Brougham has been strong out of the pen with a team-high eight saves and his 1.57 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 23 innings. Andrew Bradshaw (2-0, 3.38 ERA) earned Region 16 pitcher of the week after one sensational long relief appearance.
Offensively, Crowder has outscored its opponents 440-275.
Freilin Cabrera, who’s missed five games this season and who provided Crowder with a scare last Friday against Fort Scott, has enjoyed a truly dynamite sophomore campaign — .393 average (72 for 183), 56 runs scored, 14 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 61 RBI, 15 walks and 14 strikeouts, and 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts with .433 on-base and .617 slugging on top of that team-high batting average.
He’s capable of an extra base hit every single time he makes contact. Given his walk and strikeout numbers, he makes plenty contact.
Cabrera’s fellow sophomores Sam Chaput, Michael Chrisman, Quinn Cherry, and Colten Nix have proven bedrock solid this season, with all four players each appearing in 54 regular season games.
Chaput hit .312 (54-173) with 39 runs scored, 15 doubles, six homers, 47 RBI, 39 walks and 46 strikeouts, and 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts with time split between catcher and right field.
Chrisman hit .306 (53-173) with 60 runs scored, 14 doubles, four triples, six homers, 55 RBI, 37 walks and 16 strikeouts, and nine stolen bases in 10 attempts.
Cherry hit .280 (47-168) with 13 doubles, one triple, three homers, 40 RBI, 23 walks and 30 strikeouts, and four stolen bases in as many attempts.
Nix hit .387 (65-168) with 62 runs scored, 18 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 43 RBI, 38 walks and 35 strikeouts, and seven steals in eight attempts.
Sophomore shortstop Jorden Hussein has been a fixture on the middle infield, playing either short or second (mostly second, though), and he’s done a salty job at the bottom of the Crowder order with an average well over .300 (.326, 47-144), 31 walks and 20 strikeouts, 20 stolen bases in 22 attempts, and 45 runs scored.
Freshman center fielder Rod Criss — .313 average, 36 runs scored, 16 doubles, one triple, three homers, 36 RBI, 17 walks and 30 strikeouts, and nine steals in 11 attempts — delivered the game-winning hit in the 2-1 victory against Fort Scott and he made a catch earlier this season in a home game against Neosho County that was so good that Neosho County’s third base coach waited for Criss to shake his hand en route to the dugout.
— Three Rivers enters the postseason with a 23-27-1 overall and 9-22-1 Region 16 record.
The Raiders have a couple outstanding offensive players in sophomore jack-of-all-trades Reece Reading (listed at catcher, third base, and first base) and freshman catcher-designated hitter Nick Fakouri.
Reading hit .333 (51-153) with 37 runs scored, 10 doubles, six homers, 54 RBI, 18 walks and 25 strikeouts, and five stolen bases in seven attempts.
Fakouri hit .395 (60-152) with 41 runs scored, 17 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 40 RBI, 26 walks and 29 strikeouts, and three stolen bases in as many attempts. Fakouri’s 27 extra-base hits — accounting for nearly half of his 60 overall — produced a .691 slugging percentage.
River Hunt and Austin Williams are Three Rivers’ leaders on the mound — Hunt 4-7 with a 5.03 ERA and 56 strikeouts and 41 walks in 59 innings, Williams 4-3 with one save and a 4.68 ERA and 76 strikeouts and 24 walks in 57 2/3 innings.
Hunt took the loss in the 3-1 decision against Crowder, as the Crowder duo of Norris and Brougham proved superior to Three Rivers’ Hunt and A.J. Calhoon.
Over the last five seasons, it’s been Crowder with an 18-2 edge against Three Rivers.
— Jefferson earned the top seed for Region 16 by virtue of a 28-4 record in region play. Crowder gave the Vikings three of their four losses.
The Vikings, 45-8 overall, take a school-record 27-game winning streak with them into the postseason and they open against Maple Woods (12-32 overall, 9-23 Region 16).
Crowder and Jefferson are winners of the last two Region 16 tournament and both the 2017 Crowder and 2018 Jefferson teams reached the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Crowder moved up two spots and Jefferson three spots to No. 14 and No. 16, respectively, in the NJCAA Division I rankings released Tuesday.
REGION 16 BASEBALL
Final Regular Season Standings
Team R16 Overall
Jefferson 28-4 45-8
Crowder 25-7 41-13
State Fair 21-11 31-18
Mineral Area 17-15 28-14
St. Louis 16-16 19-23
St. Charles 15-16-1 19-18-1
Three Rivers 9-22-1 23-27-1
Maple Woods 9-23 12-32
North Central 3-29 15-37
Sub-Region Series Pairings
8) Maple Woods at 1) Jefferson
7) Three Rivers at 2) Crowder
6) St. Charles at 3) State Fair
5) St. Louis at 4) Mineral Area
— Each series Best-of-3