Iowa Western Reivers were definition of dominant during JUCO
That was impressive.
The day or two after the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series champion is crowned is a time to look back at a memorable week.
For me this past week, the 2014 JUCO World Series and this year’s champ is all about superior baseball. I’ve probably already overused the words dominate, dominance and dominating, but those words sum up this year’s tournament best. Those three words overwhelmingly describe what Iowa Western Community College did in the 2014 tournament.
The Reivers won their five games by a combined score of 53-11. They could have scored more, but the run rule went into effect in three games.
The run rule is waived for the championship game, and the Reivers never took their foot off the gas. This was one game where the run rule would have been nice. After the unmerciful pounding, the Reivers beat Miami Dade College (Florida) 17-5.
The scores offer a stark picture of domination.
■ First game: A 6-5 win over Columbia State Community College (Tennessee).
■ Second game: A 9-0 win over Midland College (Texas).
■ Third game: A 10-0 win over Miami Dade.
■ Fourth game: An 11-1 win over Midland.
■ Title game: The 17-5 clobbering of Miami Dade.
Again, choose your variation of the word dominate.
On the tournament-opening Saturday, the Reivers struggled against Columbia State, falling behind 5-0 before cutting the lead to 5-4. Pushing two runs across in the top of the ninth and holding off a bases-loaded threat in the bottom of the inning secured the first-game win for Iowa Western.
That started a crescendo of fabulous baseball building to the ultimate finale Friday night.
After taking the 6-5 lead in the ninth of that first game, the Reivers never trailed again in the tournament. The closest any team came was when Miami Dade cut the Iowa Western lead to 6-5 in the fourth inning of the title game.
Even with their trademark blue-and-white-camouflage jerseys, there was no hiding the Reivers’ domination in four of their five games.
Nerves, the players and coach Marc Rardin say, were partly responsible for that close first game.
For shortstop Jacob Sheldon-Collins, who was voted the tournament’s top defensive player, the entire week was a thrill a minute. His final fabulous flash of leather came in the ninth when he jumped to snag a line drive. The ball popped loose for a second, before he calmly grabbed it with his bare hand and rifled a throw to first base for a double play.
“I don’t think I’ve ever jumped that high in me life,” the Australian native said in his Down Under way.
“Once we got those (first game) cobwebs out, we knew we were going to hit, and we were going to play, and do what we do and kick some butt,” he said, smiling.
Kick some butt, they did.
Since Rardin took over at Iowa Western in 2003, the Reivers have been kicking lots of backsides.
This title was their third in five years. They’ve made the trek to Grand Junction and the JUCO World Series eight times since Rardin took over.
“This is why people come here,” second baseman Jason McMurray said. “Players come here so they can get to the next level and to have a chance to come here and play for a championship.”
Rardin simply points to the Reivers’ history of success when he recruits.
One of the most impressive facts about Rardin’s teams is every player that he has recruited to Iowa Western has played in the JUCO World Series.
That is one heck of a recruiting pitch.
Close to 100 players who have played for Rardin and Iowa Western have gone on to NCAA Division I programs. Another impressive fact.
All week long, Iowa Western was a hitting machine.
Alex Krupa won the MVP and hit .600 in the series. But it was a total team effort with five players hitting .375 or higher. As a team, the Reivers finished with a .394 batting average. They also had nine walks, and 12 guys were hit by pitches.
But defense and pitching were just as impressive for the Reivers.
It was simply an impressive — yes, dominant — brand of baseball excellence.
The best program in JUCO tournament history is without a doubt San Jacinto College-North (Texas), which won five titles in six years from 1985-1990.
Rardin and Iowa Western undoubtedly have that record on their radar. Their program is clearly one of the best in all of junior college baseball.
It’s never easy to get to Grand Junction and even harder to win it all once a team arrives. But this year, the Reivers made it look easy.
What about next year?
Every freshman I talked to during the Reivers’ celebration uttered virtually the same exact words when asked if they hoped to return to Grand Junction in 2015: “That’s the plan.”
That’s always the plan and many times the reality at Iowa Western.
A great program that brought a dominating brand of baseball to Grand Junction.
It was impressive.