Iowa Western enters JUCO with best record
With winning streaks of 17 and 27 games in the first 45, Marc Rardin wasn’t quite sure what to think about his Iowa Western Community College baseball team.
“For a long time, even when we were winning a lot of games, I couldn’t tell if they just like to win that much or if they hated to lose,” Rardin said of the top-ranked Reivers, who enter their sixth straight JUCO World Series with a 57-5 record, best in school history. “I didn’t really think they were afraid to lose; you don’t want them afraid to lose. They just played loose, had fun and didn’t take it for granted. The game’s made to be played loose.”
And when they lost a game to end those streaks, the Reivers started over.
“What we’ve implemented in our program is any time we lose a game at Iowa Western, you automatically have to, and really try to, win four in a row.
“You can’t lose and win and lose and win. You do that and you’re not gonna make it in the postseason. We started that years ago when we started to figure a little bit of this out. In 2010, we lost in the second round and won four in a row.”
By doing that, the Reivers won the national championship, the first for a school from the Northern District.
He’s not about to compare this team to his national championship team — or any other team he’s brought to Grand Junction in seven of the past eight years — but it’s got something.
Iowa Western teams always hit, and this one is no different, with a .412 team batting average. And since a Reiver is a river pirate, they aren’t afraid to steal a base, or more likely take an extra base.
“We’ll have quality at-bats and make things happen. We’ll go first-to-third, home-to-second,” he said. “We’re looking to take bases, try to make anybody make plays and every one in awhile they do and we tip our hat.
“We get in the left lane and stay in the left lane.”
Levi Meyer is hitting .479 with 51 RBI, Damek Tomscha .444 with 50 RBI, Brett Bass .457 and has scored 51 runs, with Tanner Kreitemeier hitting .422 with 53 RBI.
“Damek is a very talented young man and what’s helped him out this year is keeping his surrounded by Levi Meyer and Tanner Krietemeier. (Krietemeier) is a Colorado kid who transferred from Nebraska and is going to Oklahoma State.
“You have to pitch to (Tomscha) more. We don’t have too many people you can pitch around.
“Jerry Halstead, the coach at John A. Logan told me, ‘Man, 1 through 9 you hit. You get done with 3, 4 and 5 and you’ve still gotta worry about 6, 7 and 8.’ That’s a tribute to this team and how they’ve taken care of business.”
Krietemeier, a sophomore from Castle Rock, also pitches for the Reivers, with 55 2/3 innings of work and a 10-0 record. He has the best ERA on the squad, 1.45, with 74 strikeouts.
Of course, with only five losses, no pitcher has many blemishes on the record. The staff has a team 3.4 ERA, with one of their top guys, AJ Gaura, going 7-0 with a 4.46 ERA.
“But he’s got a team hitting .412 behind him,” Rardin said. “Jake Thompson is 10-2 with a 5.1 ERA. That’s OK, he’s throwing a lot of strikes. Our opponents have a 12.9 ERA. That’s not going to fly at the World Series. “
Rardin’s wife, Dawn, and their two sons, Tyler, 11 and Griffin, 5, will make the trip. It’s pretty much all the boys know about late May — they go to Colorado.
“When we won (Sunday) my wife called and handed the phone to Griffin and he said, ‘Does this mean I get to play catch on the field?’ Tyler’s 11, he’s probably too old for that, he’ll probably be in the stands, but Griffin’s all about it,” Rardin said of their pregame ritual of playing catch as the Reivers are warming up.
“He’ll make a catch and people cheer and he looks around and says, ‘Was that for me?’ Those are great memories for me.”
As successful as the Reivers have been, Rardin said they keep it in perspective.
“Cisco gets there now and San Jac is back and Polk gets through that bloodbath in Florida,” he said. “It’s the World Series. Bobby Sprowl at Shelton has been a pain in my butt. I can’t beat him. Everybody’s a No. 1 there.
“We’re a Midwest team; we don’t have to go through the unbelievably weekly grind those schools go through. I’m not taking anything away from people here, we’re just in a different area.”
And Game 1 is Iowa Western vs. San Jacinto.
“We’re going to have our hands full with San Jac,” Rardin said. “I don’t care how many times we’ve been there, we’re Iowa Western and they’re San Jac. They’re Houston, we’re Midwest. I don’t have one guy running out there at 92, 94 (mph) and he’s (San Jac coach Tom Arrington) got five.”