The No. 14-ranked Crowder Roughriders opened up their quest for a Region 16 title Thursday, weather permitting, against State Fair at historic Joe Becker Stadium.
Crowder, 43-13 overall, swept Three Rivers in a best-of-three series at Roughrider Field to advance to Joplin in the four-team, double-elimination tournament.
Top seed Jefferson and No. 4 Mineral Area round out the field.
“We talk about it as a culture,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said. “Winning is a byproduct of what we do and we demand a lot out of our kids. I’m proud of them for advancing on. You never take it for granted. Coming into this series (Three Rivers), it’s not something that was easy. It was in question right from the start. Obviously, we got out to a lead (Saturday) and let them wiggle back in, so getting to Joplin is a feat, especially this year. I thought our league from top-to-bottom was a lot more competitive than last year, where every sub-regional was a tough draw.
“Now, we get to go to Joplin and see what happens. We got our starting pitching, hopefully we can get our closer (Colin Brougham) back, and line up the pitching and go to work.”
Outstanding sophomore shortstop Freilin Cabrera continued to swing a mighty bat against Three Rivers with three hits, including a pair of solo home runs, and he found ways to score five runs. Cabrera started the scoring Sunday with a homer.
“He’s a special player,” Lallemand said. “He’s got special ability and he’s going to have a long future in baseball. I’m glad he came up in the situation, because we needed to get on the board to relax a little bit. You always worry, not worry, when you go into a series and you think we’ll see how we come out and play. We’re prepared and let’s make sure that we don’t have any hiccups. They did that.”
On the season, Cabrera owns a .389 average (75 for 193) with 61 runs scored, 14 doubles, three triples, nine homers, 63 RBI, 15 walks and 15 strikeouts, and 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts.
Michael Chrisman has proven himself to be a binge hitter — for example, Chrisman drove in 13 runs in the first five games of the season and he drove in six in one game against North Central. Chrisman drove in another 14 runs over a six-game stretch. Overall, he’s produced a .317 average (57-180) with 15 doubles, four triples, six homers, 57 RBI, 39 walks and 16 strikeouts, and 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts.
Chrisman and fellow sophomores Sam Chaput, Quinn Cherry, and Colten Nix have formed a bedrock quartet for the ‘Riders this season, all four playing in every Crowder game.
Entering the day Thursday, Chaput hit .309 (56-181) with 42 runs scored, 15 doubles, six homers, 48 RBI, 41 walks and 48 strikeouts, and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Cherry .277 (49-177) with 44 runs scored, 14 doubles, two triples, three homers, 43 RBI, 23 walks and 33 strikeouts, and four stolen bases in as many attempts. Nix .381 (67-176) with 65 runs scored, 19 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 46 RBI, 40 walks and 37 strikeouts, and eight steals in nine attempts.
Colten Weber and Tanner Norris lead the pitching staff with eight victories. Entering play in Joplin, Weber had a 8-2 record with two saves, a 4.49 ERA, and 81 strikeouts and 30 walks over 54 1/3 innings. Norris stands at 8-0 with a 2.92 ERA and 35 strikeouts and 21 walks over 43 2/3 innings.
Weber earned a save and Norris a victory against Three Rivers.
Ross Carver entered play in Joplin with a 7-1 record and one save, a 3.91 ERA, and 96 strikeouts and 20 walks over 53 innings. Keep in mind that Carver missed five weeks of the season and only returned to action in late April. He earned the victory in Game 1 against Three Rivers.
— Jefferson entered Thursday with a 47-8 overall record and a winning streak dating back to March 21. The Vikings lost the first game of a Region 16 doubleheader against St. Charles and then unfurled 29 straight wins to reach Joplin.
Like Crowder, Jefferson relies heavily on a core group of sophomores offensively, especially Nick Hagedorn and Dalton Doyle, who combined for 21 homers (Doyle 12, Hagedorn 9) and 122 RBI (Hagedorn 64, Doyle 58) in 55 games.
Just like Crowder again, Jefferson had two pitchers with eight victories leading the way before Joplin. Jason Rackers and Austin Cheeley reached eight in different ways, Rackers a starting pitcher and Cheeley a reliever with three saves.
Crowder and Jefferson battled each other for the previous two Region 16 championships, both winners (Jefferson last season, Crowder in 2017) reversing the outcomes from the regular season.
Maple Woods was the last team outside Crowder and Jefferson to win Region 16 (2016).
— Crowder and State Fair (coached by former Crowder player Jud Kindle) have developed a nice little rivalry since baseball returned to State Fair in 2017.
Last season, State Fair delivered Crowder a 7-6 loss in the opening game at Joe Becker, then Crowder earned revenge and eliminated State Fair en route to the title game.
Two seasons ago, Crowder swept State Fair in a best-of-three series.
Crowder and State Fair split their four games in the regular season.
Crowder also split four games against Mineral Area this season.
Region 16 Tournament
at Joe Becker Stadium
Elimination Game No. 1, Crowder vs. Jefferson, noon
Semifinal, State Fair vs. Mineral Area, 3 p.m.
Elimination Game No. 2, Noon winner vs. 3 p.m. loser, 6 p.m.
Championship game, noon
If necessary game, 3 p.m.