Flashing the leather
Edwards' clutch glove work helps Cowley hold on
After so many wild pitches, so many errors, and a few dozen hits, a brilliant play by second baseman Kea’von Edwards in the eighth inning helped put Cowley College (Kansas) into the next round of the Alpine Junior College World Series.
And it knocked Crowder College (Kansas) out of the tournament.
“We shoot that ball through, it might be on,” Crowder coach Travis Lallemand said Tuesday after Cowley defeated his Roughriders 11-5 at Suplizio Field.
It was on for Edwards. With two outs in the eighth inning, runners on first and third and Cowley ahead 10-5, Crowder second baseman Elvis Peralta came to the plate. He laced a shot that looked like an RBI single, but Edwards dived to his left, snared the ball and, lying on the ground, threw out Peralta by a half-step to end the inning.
“I was thinking before the ball was hit, diving bodies, just sacrifice,” Edwards said. “Good things happen when you put forth a good effort. I pinched toward the middle because that’s what he was doing the whole game. I got there a little tardy, but I laid out and made a good play.”
Cowley (35-17, 2-1 JUCO) is looking for its third JUCO World Series championship and Crowder finished its season at 54-14, 1-2.
There were six wild pitches, including one by Crowder starter Aaron Ashby that allowed two runners to score in the first inning, a passed ball and a hit batsman. Believe it or not, there were also 25 hits, including a key two-run home run by Connor Litton in the sixth inning that put Cowley ahead 8-4.
Tigers starter Jacob Ruder allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings, including a sixth-inning home run to Kyle Blackwell. Relievers Ryan Knowles and Garrett Hutson held the Roughriders in check the rest of the way.
“The game today was about our pitching,” Cowley coach Dave Burroughs said. “I thought Jake (Ruder) set the tone even though he gave up a couple early. He held those guys to five runs in almost six innings. And Ryan came in and gave us what we needed and Garrett kind of slammed the door.
“After last night’s disappointment of losing that game, I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. All credit to these guys.”
On Monday night, in the showcase “Fireworks Game,” Cowley lost 12-11 by Wabash Valley.
Litton said there were no special messages to get the team ready to play after such a tough loss a little more than 12 hours earlier.
“We just do what we do every day. Don’t try to get too big. Don’t let the moment get to you,” he said. “Balls in the dirt, we advanced on the bases; hitting, we had clutch hitting when we needed it; pitching, outstanding. That’s one of the best hitting teams in the country.”
The start of the game was a wild one, literally. Cowley jumped to a 3-0 lead thanks to a pair of wild pitches by Ashby. After Bret Fehr opened with a double and moved to third on a ground out, Ashby walked the next two batters to load the bases. He then uncorked a pitch that got past catcher Michael Miller and allowed Fehr to score, with the other runners moving up to second and third. With Ross Messina at the plate, Ashby threw another wild pitch and this time two runners raced home as the ball rolled all the way to the backstop.
Undaunted, Crowder came back in its first at-bat and scored a run with the help of guess what? A wild pitch. Jacob Adams led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Ruder, and scored on Tyler Duncan’s double. Peralta, who finished his JUCO World Series batting .500 (9 for 18), then singled home Duncan to cut the lead to 3-2.
Cowley made it 4-2 in the third on a one-out RBI single by Messina, and another wild pitch by Ashby almost paved the way for more scoring, but with runners on second and third he struck out the next two batters.
Crowder tied it in the bottom of the inning. Peralta singled, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on a double to right by Kyle McDonald. He moved to second on a ground out, and Cameron Witt’s two-out bunt turned into a throwing error by third baseman Litton that allowed McDonald to score.
Cowley regained the lead with two more runs in the fourth, one on a throwing error the other on a sacrifice fly by Litton, who finished with three RBI. The Tigers added single runs in the final three innings to close out the scoring.