Grand Junction, Colorado, here they come.
The Crowder College baseball team clinched a berth to the NJCAA Division I World Series for a second consecutive season on Sunday by defeating Delgado Community College 9-1 in the championship of the South Central District Tournament at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in New Orleans.
For the first time in program history, the Roughriders have advanced to the World Series in back-to-back seasons. This year’s big event will run May 28 through June 4 at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction.
“This was another tough district to play in, and I think we have one of the tougher districts in the country,” 17th-year Crowder coach Travis Lallemand said. “That was backed up by what happened on the field this weekend.
“To be able to keep playing after this weekend feels unbelievable. … Just to be able to take this group back to Grand Junction, where most of them played last year, the wow factor won’t be as magnified. I’s going to be an extremely talented field like it is every year, but at the same time, we’re as experienced as anybody going out there. I like the looks of that, but it doesn’t mean anything until you go play.”
Lallemand said Crowder will learn of its seed and first-round opponent for the World Series on Monday.
The Roughriders benefitted from a stout pitching performance by 6-foot-3 righty Riely Hunsaker in Sunday’s district championship. The freshman and Peculiar, Missouri, product tossed 6 1/3 innings in his start and limited a potent Delgado offense to just one earned run and five hits while striking out five batters.
“We wanted maybe 12 to 15 outs from him and he gave us 18-plus,” Lallemand said. “Holy cow, he was dominant. It was a great matchup because he’s kind of a high-ride fastball guy, which is something we noticed they swung and missed at throughout the weekend. … He was dominant, and what a great time for it.
“I can remember in the fall when he came off the mound in an intrasquad and I said to him, ‘Man, that’s 10-game winner stuff right there.’ and I told him today after the game, ‘You know, you didn’t get the opportunity to start as many games because of a slow start on the mound, but that was 10-game winner stuff today.’”
Hunsaker picked up some run support starting in the top of the third inning as Crowder plated three runs. Adamo Stornello reached on an error and advanced to second on a single by Clayton Gray before back-to-back doubled by Josh Patrick and Peyton Holt gave the Roughriders a 3-0 lead.
Then in the fourth, leadoff singles by Kenny DiClemente and Jackson Cobb put two runners aboard before they crossed home plate on a single and a sacrifice fly to expand the lead to 5-0.
Hunsaker’s only blemish on the day came in the bottom of the sixth when Delgado’s Josh Alexander hit a solo home run to trim the Crowder lead to four runs.
The Roughriders tacked on another run in the top of the seventh when an RBI single plated Patrick, who reached on a walk and advanced on two consecutive wild pitches before scoring. Crowder went on to plate three more insurance runs on four hits in the eighth inning to bring the game to its eventual final score.
Crowder outhit Delgado 12-6 on the day. Patrick finished 3 for 4 with two RBI while Holt finished 2 for 5 with three RBI. Houston King, Stornello and Gray drove in one run apiece.
“We score with the wind blowing in and the wind blowing out,” Lallemand said. “That’s the difference between this year and last year’s team. We’re a little more versatile and can beat teams in a lot of ways.”
Jake Wilson and Conner Floyd both tossed in relief for Crowder and combined to limit Delgado to no runs and one hit in 2 2/3 innings. Hunsaker was credited with the win.
Delgado’s Will Reed suffered the loss as the starting pitcher while Tyler Velino, Caleb Dreux, Kaile Levatino and Carson Lore each appeared in relief.
Next week will mark Crowder’s fourth World Series appearance under Lallemand.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.