By Levi Payton
Special to The Globe
The Crowder Roughriders didn’t get the offensive surge at the plate that they were hoping for against Maple Woods in the NJCAA Region XVI Baseball Championship on Thursday.
They did, however, get solid pitching and just enough runs to squeeze by the Monarchs, winning 4-3 at Wendell Redden Stadium in the Joplin Athletic Complex.
Despite striking out four times in the first two innings, the Roughriders (43-15) remained patient against Monarchs starter Ashton Goudeau. He’d faced just one over the minimum entering the bottom of the fourth, but Justin Treece and Tony Sandifer both drew walks in the inning before Drew Crain drove Treece in from third with a two-out single to right to make it 1-0.
Goudeau settled down, however, and allowed only two more baserunners — neither of which advanced past first base — until the eighth inning.
“To be honest, we’re lucky to be here right now,” Roughriders coach Travis Lallemand said. “We haven’t played our best baseball offensively.”
With only six outs to work with, the Roughriders’ selective approach at the plate finally paid off. Successive walks and an infield single by Logan Pearson loaded the bases with no outs in Crowder’s eighth.
With Goudeau finally against the ropes, Crowder pounced. Sandifer drew a walk to score Cody Althouse and make it 3-2. After a pop up, Crain hit a high chop to first, but the Monarchs did nothing with it and Treece scored to even it at 3-3.
The gifts kept coming for the Roughriders, as Goudeau uncorked his second wild pitch of the game and Pearson raced home with the decisive run.
Said Crain of Goudeau: “He’s a good pitcher. He really held us down for a while. We ended up finally getting a couple of hits when it mattered, and that’s what counts; taking advantage of what’s given.”
After battling Roughriders starter Jalen Beeks — who had yet to allow a runner past first base through five innings — the Monarchs came through with a pair of runs to take the lead in the sixth.
Brad Dillenberger singled and moved to second on a sacrifice, and Corey Embree lined a single to left just off the outstretched glove of Sandifer at third to score Dillenberger and make it 1-1 in the sixth. Embree moved up to second on the throw and scored on Will Carter’s RBI single to right to make it 2-1.
Embree later doubled and scored on Austin Kepler’s sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth to give the Monarchs a 3-1 advantage.
Beeks allowed the first two runners to reach in the eighth before Lallemand summoned Ethan Mather from the bullpen. Mather picked up the victory after allowing only a hit and striking out two in two innings of relief.
Beeks got a no decision despite striking out nine and walking one in seven innings. He scattered seven hits and allowed three runs.
“It’s something to be said for us putting up enough runs up to win ballgames,” Lallemand said. “Our pitching has been outstanding.”
Goudeau also struck out nine, but also walked six and scattered six hits in the loss.
Crain finished with two hits and two RBI for the Roughriders.