Reivers maturing as a team in tournament
Marc Rardin isn’t quite ready to declare his Iowa Western Community College baseball team all grown up, but he’s noticed a difference in the Reivers this week.
“It’s being comfortable being in the environment,” Rardin said Wednesday after the young Reivers downed Chipola (Fla.) College 13-0 in an elimination game in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field. “Getting thrown into something right away, you can talk until you’re blue in the face, but they don’t know it. Now all of a sudden they’re here for a week and they’re not caught up in anything. They’re wanting to play.”
The Reivers, who started six freshmen against Chipola, were a more relaxed, confident bunch, especially at the plate. Iowa Western (43-19) had 16 hits, moving runners over and driving them in once they were in scoring position.
“It seemed like we were really relaxed before the game and focused during the game,” said center fielder Mitch Warne, a sophomore transfer.
With only a handful of players back from last year’s national championship team, Rardin preached all season to this club to make its own way.
“It’s a big thing for us to not forget about the national championship, but for us freshmen coming in to say, ‘Hey, we can play, too,’ ” third baseman Damek Tomscha said. “We won the national championship last year, but you can’t live in the past.”
Tomscha, who hit a solo home run in the third inning, said the atmosphere this week was hard to ignore.
“I think a big part of it is you’re out here in front of the crowd,” he said. “The first game you’re kind of nervous and the second game there’s 7,000 people there. It gets to you sometimes. After awhile, you zone them out. That’s what we’ve been doing lately. If we lose, we lose, but you can’t play not to lose, you have to go out and just play.”
Every national champion has a big target the next season and it was no different all season for the Reivers. Teams in the World Series also got just a little more pumped up to play them, even though the roster is vastly different from last season.
“There was some pressure, but I think we all knew there was going to be that pressure coming into it,” freshman catcher Levi Meyer said. “Coach told us from he beginning of the year, you guys are going to see everybody’s 1 and 2 (pitchers). We took that as a challenge. We had a target on our back but we wanted to get back here this year.”
After losing 9-1 to Navarro (Texas) College in their second game of the tournament, Rardin tried to reassure his young squad.
“Coach told us that even though we lost, we were still in the top 10 teams in the country left,” Meyer said. “That was something, but being a new team, we just wanted to win more and get to where that team was last year.
“We’re getting a little taste of it and we’re just trying to get back to that championship game.”