Rardin, Reivers enjoy trip home after title win
Iowa Western Community College coach Marc Rardin found the most enjoyable way to travel from Grand Junction to Council Bluffs, Iowa.
It wasn’t the trip in 2007 and 2009, when Rardin left the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series after losing two games in the span of 24 hours. It’s not the trip in 2008, when the Reivers returned home after Rardin was ejected from a 28-19 elimination loss to Central Arizona.
No, the best trip home was Sunday, after Rardin and the Reivers rallied past San Jacinto (Texas) College-North 5-4 and had the national championship trophy tucked safely on the bus.
“It was great. If you are going to travel 14 hours, you might as well do it as national champions,” Rardin said. “We were on the road by 6:30 a.m., and got (to Council Bluffs) about 8:30 that night and had a huge welcome at our student center.”
The Reivers got to see how far they’ve come since Rardin took over the program in 2003.
Iowa Western plays in the Northern District, which hasn’t had much success. In fact, the Reivers were the first team from that district to win the national title.
What helped the Reivers make the jump to actual contenders for the national championship was consistently making the World Series. This year marked the fourth straight season the Reivers qualified for JUCO, the fifth time in six years.
“My goal was always to be consistent,” Rardin said. “It moved once we starting going to the World Series, and within those years, the goal became getting to a national championship game, because once there, I knew anything could happen.”
Rardin’s premonition was spot-on. The Reivers defeated College of Southern Nevada last Thursday before upending top-ranked San Jacinto twice to win the national title. Both the Coyotes and Gators arguably had more individual talent than Iowa Western, but the Reivers didn’t let that play a role in their tournament.
“I respect what those programs are about, so to beat Southern Nevada, then getting to the national championship and having to beat the No. 1 team in the nation twice ...” Rardin said. “That says a lot about the drive and character of our guys.”
Rardin released his players for the summer Monday, and said it was a bittersweet moment parting ways with players like tournament MVP Ivan Hartle and catcher Anthony Bemboom.
“It gets emotional, but your job is to send them away better than when they got here,” Rardin said. “They are going onto bigger and better things.”
The Reivers only return six players next season, but have 23 new players coming in.
“It’s indescribable,” Rardin said. “Everything is still a blur. Maybe in another week when I have a day where I can get onto the golf course and get away, I’ll really try to understand and take it all in.”