JOPLIN — The Crowder Roughriders achieved four victories in two days — 32 innings of baseball, 14 Friday and 18 Saturday — to come away with a Region 16 championship after losing their opening game Thursday.
Crowder needed two wins Saturday against State Fair, who beat Crowder 5-4 in that opener.
The ‘Riders accomplished just that — two wins — and it was never easy, true to the spirit of this Crowder team.
The ‘Riders struck first offensively in the first game with five runs in the fifth en route to a 9-4 victory.
In the second game, Crowder pitchers Corey Lummis, Beaux Bonvillain, and Colten Weber combined to allow just a single run during a thrilling 2-1 championship game victory at Warren Turner Field.
Rain overnight Friday forced a location change from half-grass Joe Becker to all-turf Warren Turner and the start time was pushed back 3 1/2 hours from the original noon.
Crowder and State Fair engaged in an epic pitchers’ duel in Game 2 Saturday, and fans at Warren Turner saw one performance that will go down in history as all-time great.
Weber started that opening game Thursday against State Fair and came back 48 hours later like a man possessed with everything at stake in the final three innings.
Please keep in mind that Weber pitched seven innings Thursday.
On Friday, Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said that starting pitcher Ross Carver gave one of the most dominant performances he’s ever seen in a victory against top seed Jefferson.
A day later, Lallemand said the same about Weber in relief.
“Weber was lights out,” Lallemand said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more dominant outing from a bullpen guy in my time here. I’ve been saying that a lot, so that’s a great thing. We got a great start (Friday) and how dominant (Weber) was out of the pen was fantastic. He probably would have fought me if I tried taking him out of the game.”
Weber started pounding the strike zone from his very first pitch and he finished with three scoreless innings. State Fair reached on one hit, but Crowder overcame that as Weber struck out seven and walked none.
Weber earned the victory, his ninth of the season. He was not the only Crowder player to reverse outcomes from Thursday and achieve redemption Saturday.
In the Crowder seventh, Brinson Williams reached on a hit by pitch and he advanced into scoring position on a Jorden Hussein sacrifice. Cameron Tissue gave Crowder runners at the corners with a single, bringing up Freilin Cabrera, just the man Crowder wanted to be at the plate.
Down 1-2 in the count, Cabrera delivered the go-ahead single against the same pitcher — Garrett Morrow — that he struck out against in the ninth inning of the loss Thursday.
“I said from the start that he’s a very special player,” Lallemand said. “It was the same exact matchup, the same exact setup besides one runner less as the other day. Same pitcher, same everything, and he shot the ball through. It was a two-strike count just like it was (Thursday). It almost looked like the same at-bat. Chasing the ball in the zone. Again, just the perseverance and sticking with the plan. He’s a guy with a short memory. You just go out and compete and battle. He did that.”
Cabrera had 10 hits in the four Crowder victories, including six on Championship Saturday.
State Fair loaded the bases in three straight innings but the Roadrunners only managed one run. Crowder doubled off a runner at second to end the fourth with no damage, then turned a double play in the fifth to minimize the damage at one run and Bonvillain struck out Brice Pannier to end the sixth with a tie score preserved.
Crowder improved to 47-14 overall and the ‘Riders host the upcoming South Central District Championship against Region 2 (Oklahoma) and Region 23 (Louisiana) winners. Crowder hosted districts in both 2014 and 2017, their previous two Region 16 tournament winners.
“I have the utmost confidence in my group,” Lallemand said. “They just didn’t want to quit playing and that showed today. It’s tough to have come in here and play 18 full innings and they did it. They came in, they competed. In Game 1 the offense picked us up, in Game 2 the pitching stepped up. That’s the way it’s been all year.
“What a fantastic feat they’ve accomplished here. Losing in the first round, a lot of teams just pack it in and say next year, but these guys didn’t. Behind some tremendous, tremendous pitching and some timely hitting. Most of the runs we scored in this tournament were with two outs. That shows the depth of their character and there’s a little perseverance within them beyond maybe some of the opponents that we face.”
The district title winner earns a spot in the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.