Lamar CC cools off after hot start on diamond
Scott Crampton drove out to the baseball field at Lamar Community College on Tuesday morning just to make sure there was still dirt on the infield.
The spring storm that howled through much of the state Tuesday didn’t bring snow to the southeastern plains. Instead, Lamar got wind. Bitter, cold wind.
“I drove out there this morning to see how much of our dirt was in our grass,” the Lamar Community College baseball coach said. “The joke is really not that big a joke because there’s a lot of truth to it.
“It was 75 (degrees Monday) and (Tuesday) it’s 26 with 45-mile-an-hour winds. It’s unbelievable.”
He is thankful for a couple of things — one, Lamar has an indoor facility, so the Runnin’ Lopes can at least hit when the weather doesn’t cooperate, and two, they don’t have a game until Saturday, when temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 70s.
The Lopes (33-9, 17-3 Region 9) were No. 1 in the nation the past two weeks, a new position for them.
“I don’t know if it’s a blessing/curse thing,” Crampton said. “We haven’t played good baseball since the ranking came out. The day it came out, we lost a one-run game to Colby (Kan.) at home, so you felt like you let people down.
“We’re ranked No. 1 and we really, really have to do well and we’re not used to that. It’s taken us a little while to get through that.”
In the two weeks since, the Lopes have gone 6-4, so Crampton expected to drop some Wednesday — and they did, to No. 7.
Crowder (Mo.) College moved up one spot and is the new No. 1 team in the nation at 30-5. Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College (37-5) is ranked second, followed by 2012 champion Iowa Western (29-7), College of Southern Nevada (28-9) and Grayson (Texas) College (28-8).
Lamar started out hot, winning its first 10 games, then opened Region 9 play 12-0.
“We’ve got four starters doing very well. We don’t have the power numbers like last year, don’t have that star individual, but we’ve got nine hitters who do the job and execute,” Crampton said. “We’re just winning ballgames by executing.”
Not bad for a team that returned only two catchers with game experience from last season. Some sophomore transfers have helped an otherwise young team race to the top of the charts.
Pitcher Walker Williams from Fruita Monument and outfielder Marcus Wirth from Grand Junction are redshirting with the Lopes this season, but tell their teammates all about the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, which runs May 25-June 1 at Suplizio Field.
Tickets (reserved and general admission) are on sale online at jucogj.org or by calling 1-800-591-JUCO (591-5826). Fans who purchase reserved seats before May 1 will receive a 10 percent discount.
Teams begin qualifying for JUCO in early May, with Region 9 (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska) playing against Region 1 (Arizona) and Region 18 (Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) in the Western District. Crampton knows all too well how tough it is to butt heads with warm-weather teams, not only on the field but in recruiting.
” ‘Coach, they have palm trees surrounding their field and it’s warm all the time,’ ‘’ Crampton said. “I’m like ... yeah. I can’t argue. We can hit indoors, does that help?”
The Lopes have 10 more games in April, then the Region 9 playoffs and, if they survive that, the Western District tournament.
“We don’t want to look back and say our best baseball was in March when we were ranked No. 1 and we fizzled from there,” Crampton said.