MAKING IT ROUGH: Crowder College prides itself on being good two-strike team
The Roughriders are rough on opposing pitchers.
Crowder College (Missouri) has drawn 332 walks this season, third in NJCAA Division I baseball. That total is almost 40 more than any other team at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Coach Travis Lallemand said the Roughriders also extend at-bats and fight off pitches with two strikes. The ability to force pitchers to work deep into counts helped Crowder College make it to Grand Junction.
“We’ve been a really good two-strike team and we have guys who can work very deep into at-bats,” Lallemand said. “All year, our guys, when they’re down in counts, they’ve done a really great job of battling back and being patient.”
Sophomore infielder Jacob Adams has drawn a team-high 51 walks and boasts an on-base percentage of .500. Freshman infielder Kobe Morris has struck out only 20 times in 189 at-bats and infielder Kyle MacDonald has drawn 39 walks to go with a team-high 15 home runs.
Lallemand singled out MacDonald as a particularly skilled two-strike hitter.
“Big, physical left-handed bat with big-time pop,” Lallemand said. “He’s at 15 home runs on the season now and he had a really great (South Central District) tournament. Good two-strike hitter as well.”
Sophomore infielder Elvis Peralta is another player that extends at-bats. He emerged as an early star for the Roughriders with a mix of speed, strength and hitting ability. Peralta leads Crowder with a .372 batting average and also has team-highs in triples (eight), hits (90) and stolen bases (30). He trails only MacDonald with 11 home runs and leads the nation with 242 at-bats.
If you need something to happen, Peralta’s the guy, Lallemand said.
“He’s definitely one of our energy guys,” the coach said. “He was a part-time player last year who came back and pretty much won the second base job this spring and just continued to hit for the entire year. He’s our guy in the three-hole and, like I said, just a great energy guy to have in there.”
The Roughriders had to scrap throughout their regional and district tournaments, playing “if” games in both to win championships. But otherwise, Crowder has gone on long winning streaks aided by big offensive run totals. The Roughriders won 12 of their first 13 games before dropping three of four to Iowa Western. When March rolled around, Crowder went on a 14-game winning streak, part of a 25-2 stretch to close out the season. In that span, the Roughriders scored at least eight runs in 17 games.
As for pitching, Crowder has relied on its depth.
Zach Jackson is second in the country with 12 wins and logged 91 1/3 innings, the most on the club. He’s a precision pitcher who hasn’t piled up the strikeouts, but allowed only 18 walks and two home runs.
“He’s our workhorse, obviously, and he just fills up the zone,” Lallemand said. “He’s got a four-pitch mix with really good control and a heavy breaking ball.”
A trio of left-handers provide the majority of the strikeouts with two, Joey Cooner and Ty Harris, serving as regular starters. Cooner has a team-high 103 strikeouts — among the top 25 in the country — and Harris has 74 strikeouts in 60 innings, an average of 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
“Both are upper 80s left-handers,” Lallemand said. “Joey’s been our No. 1 for part of the year and Ty Harris is a DI transfer who’s been really good down the stretch.”
There’s also Aaron Ashby, who’s given the Roughriders some flexibility. The nephew of Andy Ashby, a Major League starting pitcher from 1991-2004 who suited up for the Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, has been both a starter and occasional closer for Crowder.
The younger Ashby, a freshman, is second on the team with 85 strikeouts. He has the highest strikeout ratio for Crowder — 12.54 strikeouts per nine innings — and has a team-high four saves.
“He’s at 87-91 mph with really great stuff,” Lallemand said. “Early in the season and in tournaments the past few weeks we’ve used him as a potential No. 4 starter while putting him at the back end of the bullpen in the early games. It’s been a good spot for him.”