The No. 10-ranked Crowder Roughriders will vie for their second JUCO World Series appearance in three seasons beginning Friday at Joe Becker Stadium.
Region 16 champion Crowder (47-14) welcomes Region 2 champ Connors State (45-11) and Region 23 champ Delgado (35-12) with the South Central District title at stake.
The ‘Riders do have one major advantage in the double-elimination tournament — it’s 33 minutes and 25.9 miles from Crowder to Joe Becker in Joplin, while Connors State (Oklahoma) travels 2 hours, 30 minutes and 139 miles one way and Delgado faces a friendly jaunt of nearly 11 hours and 700 miles from its New Orleans home.
“What a great opportunity we have in our backyard,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said, “with all our fans and all the support you media guys give us. Everything right here in our backyard. Hopefully, we can repeat 2017 because I don’t want to quit playing.”
Friday’s games are Connors State and Delgado at noon, Crowder and Connors State at 3 p.m., and Crowder and Delgado at 6 p.m.
— No. 19 Connors State took a similar path to winning Region 2 as Crowder did in taking Region 16.
The Cowboys lost a tournament game against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and facing elimination, they rattled off four straight victories — including back-to-back ones against NEO — to win the crown.
Connors State defeated Eastern Oklahoma 4-3, won a 21-15 endurance contest against Seminole State, defeated NEO 14-12 on Sunday, and then defeated NEO 8-6 in a game that started Monday and wrapped up Tuesday, played at two different locations.
The Cowboys feature a couple heavy mashers in David Mendham and Jake Womack. Mendham hits .414 (84 for 203) with 65 runs scored, 16 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 78 RBI, and 53 walks and 21 strikeouts, while Womack bats .403 (75-186) with 67 runs scored, 19 doubles, 11 homers, 76 RBI, and 33 walks and 35 strikeouts.
Chris Mondesi ranks third with 54 RBI.
The Cowboys outscored their first 56 opponents by a combined 516-238. Connors State ranks eighth in the nation in runs scored and Crowder’s not far behind at 10th (493 runs scored and the ‘Riders have outscored their opponents by exactly 200 runs).
Bryan Martinez leads Connors State with a 7-4 record and a 3.64 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 11 walks over 66 2/3 innings. He’s recorded six complete games.
Four other pitchers have combined for 20 victories with five each — Secundino Morales, Abel Acosta, Keith Traylor, and Joe Roundtree. Morales has a team-high six saves.
Crowder and Connors State played once during the regular season, back in mid-March, and the Cowboys earned a 17-13 victory at Roughrider Field.
The Cowboys surged out to a 16-6 lead — highlighted by eight runs in the fifth — before Crowder pushed across seven runs in the last three innings.
Anme Ortega and DeClaudio Irvin each had three hits for the Cowboys and Mendham and Womack both had two. Mendham drove in three runs and Ortega, Womack, and Chris Mondesi each picked up two RBI.
Michael Chrisman, Colten Nix, Sam Chaput, Freilin Cabrera, Rod Criss, and Jorden Hussein each had two hits for Crowder. Chaput drove in four, Cabrera three, and Chrisman and Nix two each.
Crowder threw seven arms — none of them front line — in the mid-week contest.
The Cowboys have made five JUCO World Series appearances and they finished fifth in 2013.
— Delgado won its 10th straight Region 23 title with a 6-5 victory Sunday over Nunez. The Dolphins rallied from an early 2-0 deficit.
The Dolphins have been a fixture in the South Central District tourney, with appearances in 13 of the past 14 seasons including those 10 straight.
The Dolphins have scored far less runs than both Connors State (516) and Crowder (493) with 291 over 47 games, but they have surrendered fewer runs (190) than their district opponents (Connors State 238, Crowder 293).
Sophomore catcher Ross Scelfo leads the Dolphins with a .409 average (52-127) and 28 runs scored, 11 doubles, seven homers, 40 RBI, 23 walks and 27 strikeouts, and four steals in six attempts. He’s fielded at a 1.000 clip.
Sophomore infielder Grant Schulz hits .348 (56-161) with 36 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, seven homers, 46 RBI, 13 walks and 12 strikeouts, and one steal in four attempts.
Sophomore catcher Tyler McManus hits .264 (38-144) with 42 runs scored, eight doubles, eight homers, 30 RBI, 38 walks and 41 strikeouts, and two steals in three attempts.
Sophomore pitcher Daniel Dugas leads the Dolphins with a 6-4 record, a 4.41 ERA, and 43 strikeouts and 19 walks over 49 innings.
Delgado shared no common opponents this season with Crowder and Connors State.
The Dolphins made three straight JUCO World Series appearances from 2014 through 2016.