JOPLIN — The Crowder Roughriders succeeded in one area of the game but that was not enough to win during two South Central District games Friday against Connors State and Delgado at historic Joe Becker Stadium.
The ‘Riders collected 26 hits on the day — 13 in each game — but received two subpar starts from Ross Carver and Xavier Leduc, committed four errors compared to none for Connors and Delgado, were doubled up on three plays (two against Connors, one against Delgado), and failed to make more of the fundamental plays than their opponents in 9-6 (Connors) and 10-6 losses (Delgado).
Crowder took an early lead in both games — 2-0 after one against Connors and 3-1 after one against Delgado — but played from behind for the rest of both games after big innings by their opponents.
“We really didn’t get as good starting pitching as we did last week,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said. “I think that’s where it started. Coming into this tournament, we talked about quality starts. After the way that we pitched last weekend, it was almost inevitable. It just didn’t happen today and our offense picked it up, but I’m not sure how many errors we made, I just know there were a bunch of plays that should have been made. Offensively, I thought we played well, but the other two phases of the game were pretty bad. Nothing against my kids or anything like that, this time of the year, you’ve got to play better baseball than that to expect to win and we just didn’t.
“We hit some balls hard right at people. You just lose control of the game a little bit when you’re having to come from behind in the middle to late innings. Sometimes you can’t catch the breaks. They defended, they made every play, and what it comes down to me is the 3-1 lead after the first, that could have been five. In tournament play, sometimes you’ve got to make those crooked innings happen to separate yourself on the scoreboard. We had a couple unfortunate plays where we got doubled up on some line drives on the infield and those are free outs. Free outs kill innings. Double plays kill innings. That was the story of the day: Plays we should have made, lack of quality pitching that we’re used to, and just some free outs offensively.”
In his two previous outings at Joe Becker, against Fort Scott at the end of the regular season and Jefferson in the Region 16 tournament, Carver proved to be a dominating force on the mound. Carver allowed two runs (both earned) on five hits with 13 strikeouts and two walks over nine innings against Jefferson and he allowed one run (earned) on four hits with 14 strikeouts and one walk over six innings against Fort Scott.
Carver did not have the stuff Friday against Connors, as he allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks over 2 1/3 innings.
The Cowboys built a 7-2 lead after three innings with four runs in the second and three in the third.
Beaux Bonvillain and Andrew Bradshaw gave Crowder a chance with their work in relief. Bonvillain allowed one run (earned) on one hit with two strikeouts and three walks over 3 2/3 innings. Bradshaw gave up a solo home run during his two innings of work and struck out two and walked none.
Sam Chaput gave Crowder that 2-0 lead with a two-run home run in the first and Quinn Cherry’s three-hit game was highlighted by a three-run homer in the sixth that drew Crowder to within 7-5. Freilin Cabrera’s RBI double in the seventh closed out Crowder’s scoring.
Connors doubled up Crowder at second to end the eighth and then Keith Traylor closed the door shut on Crowder with three straight outs in the ninth after Brinson Williams hit a leadoff double.
In both games Friday, Crowder missed Region 16 all-defensive team selection Jorden Hussein at second base. Hussein came up hurt late in the Region 16 championship game against State Fair.
Crowder started out swinging in the elimination game against Delgado — Cameron Tissue doubled, Cabrera hit a two-run homer, Chaput singled, Colten Nix singled, and Michael Chrisman singled. The ‘Riders had their momentum come to a halt when Cherry popped out to first base and Delgado doubled up Chrisman at first.
Delgado took a 6-3 lead on starter Leduc after plating one in the third and four in the fourth. Leduc’s walks came back to bite him, especially in the fourth when a pair of walks and a single produced a bases loaded scenario for Delgado sophomore catcher Tyler McManus. McManus jumped all over Leduc’s first pitch and hit it out for that 6-3 lead.
Leduc allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits with three strikeouts and five walks over four innings.
Crowder scored one in the fifth and two in the seventh — Cabrera hit his second two-run homer of the contest — but the Dolphins plated one in the sixth and two in the seventh to keep Crowder at bay.
Crowder finished with a 47-16 overall record.
“A lot of teams might have packed it in last week losing in the first round of regionals,” Lallemand said. “These guys just fought and don’t have any quit in them, and that’s going to carry them a long way in life and in baseball. I’m extremely proud of them for what they did, because like I said we could have been done a week ago. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out the way that we wanted it to, but when you go home, there’s 10 teams that go to Grand Junction and we were probably one of the last 15 teams playing, so there’s something to be said for that, their effort and what they did. At the end of the day, we have to go home.”
Connors punched its ticket to Grand Junction and the JUCO World Series with a 16-14 victory Sunday over Delgado.
The Cowboys join Cowley, Walters State, Monroe, Chipola, Chattahoochee Valley, Navarro, New Mexico, and Central Arizona in being qualifiers. Wabash Valley and Iowa Western battled Monday for the 10th and final spot in Grand Junction.