Lower half of order lifts Reivers past Pioneers

Lower half of order lifts Reivers past PioneersNew Cal 4 column format

The bottom of the order climbed to the top of the stat sheet Sunday as Iowa Western Community College’s bats showed a little more of the hitting prowess the Reivers wanted to display in Grand Junction.

Brandon Tierney, who hits sixth in the lineup, was hit by three pitches, No. 7 hitter Keaton Steele doubled, No. 8 hitter Alex Greer hit two singles and No. 9 hitter Iseha Conklin doubled, singled and stole two bases.

Each also crossed the plate once, accounting for all of the Reivers’ scoring in a 4-1 victory over Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College in the first elimination game of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Both teams were trying to stay alive after first-round losses Saturday. For Iowa Western (58-6), the tournament continues after collecting nine hits, a respectable improvement over the five it was limited to Saturday in a 5-2 loss to San Jacinto (Texas) College-North.

Conklin said he hopes and feels the Reivers, who brought a .414 team batting average and the No. 1 national ranking to the tourney, are ready to break out at the plate.

“Today was better than yesterday, and I feel like hopefully tomorrow morning we just wake up and keep swinging and just get more comfortable with everything,” he said. “I mean, we swung the bat really well all year, and I think we’ll be fine.”

Reivers coach Marc Rardin hopes Conklin’s right.

“I didn’t think we’d come in here and be the Yankees or something, but I’m really surprised right now,” Rardin said. “We’ve got some guys not acting themselves, and the problem is, it’s not that they don’t care; they care too much. You’ve got to relax.”

Conklin, a freshman, seems to have the relaxed approach down. He also doubled home both of Iowa Western’s runs Saturday.

“Thank God for Iseha right now in our nine hole,” Rardin said. “Iseha’s had a great two games, had great at-bats.”

The bottom half of the lineup’s production comes as no surprise to Tierney.

“To be honest,” he said, “I think this lineup is just stacked from one to nine. Iseha, he’s been coming through lately, huge. Greer just has unlimited power, and Keaton’s just been hitting the ball excellent lately.”

Rardin isn’t surprised, either.

“If you’re going to have a team that gets here, you can’t rely on one or two guys,” he said. “I mean, Damek Tomscha’s not himself right now, Tanner Krietemeier’s not himself right now, but there’s other guys. It’s not a two-man team, and right now we’re showing that.”

Tomscha and Krietemeier bat third and fourth in the order, and Steele said it’s just a matter of time before they get going.

“We all come in, try to swing it, give it our best shot, and today just happened to be the bottom of the lineup coming through,” he said. “(We have) another chance tomorrow, and I’m sure the top of the lineup will get it going, and the bottom half will slug right along there with them.”

Without an offensive explosion, the Reivers will need more of what they got Sunday from starting pitcher Andy Roberts and relief pitcher Pascal Paul, returnee’s from Iowa Western’s JUCO team of a year ago.

Roberts went the first 6 1/3 innings, limiting the Pioneers to one unearned run on six hits and no walks. And for the second week in a row, after a postseason loss, he delivered for the Reivers when it was do or die. In the district tournament, the response to a Sunday loss was a nine-inning shutout in the next game.

“That’s a tough situation to be in,” Rardin said. “He’s been fabulous for us. Hopefully I get to use him again later on in this tournament.”

Paul finished the game for the Reivers, allowing one hit, no runs and no walks.

“He’s been a consistent guy for us,” Rardin said. “Pascal with that lead is a strike thrower, had a lot of movement on his ball. They weren’t squaring him up and getting a lot of rollovers and stuff.”

Spartanburg coach Tim Wallace said the Pioneers (45-18) had chances to stick around Grand Junction, but didn’t seize them.

“Today we never put any pressure on them,” he said. “I mean, the kid pitched a great game, but a couple times we put some runners on, we hit a line drive, and it got caught. We never put any pressure on them.”


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