May 15—Right after Logan Chambers' two-run double in the bottom of the seventh to complete the run-rule, two words were echoed among the players on the field during their celebratory postgame high-fives at Joe Becker Stadium.
"One more," several players shouted.
The Crowder College baseball team is one step closer to achieving a goal that was set back in August. With a 10-2 triumph over Jefferson College on Friday afternoon, the No. 6 Roughriders (48-6, 30-2 Region 16) advanced to the Region 16 championship round. They will play Jefferson, a 15-11 winner over St. Charles in the consolation final on Friday night, at noon Saturday.
"We haven't been here in the last two tournaments, we've had to fight back," Crowder coach Travis Lallemand said. "It definitely feels good, especially the way we are pitching. We lined up our pitching to be (Dylan) Carter, Kaleb (Hill) and (James) Hicks. The biggest thing is completing that run-rule and keeping our best bullpen arm (Conner Floyd) throwing minimal pitches. We have a full bullpen. We got two quality starts. That all lines up.
"I have been on championship day a lot, but you still have to win."
For Crowder, much of Friday's success derived from what it did well in the opening game: pitch and mash the baseball.
Kaleb Hill, a 39th round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians in 2018, overcame a shaky start to deliver a solid performance. The lefty, who looks the part at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, went six strong innings while punching out eight batters and allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits.
"He's a horse," Lallemand said. "He came out and didn't have his sharp stuff early. He's a guy that people have to get to early. If they don't, it's tough to get to him because the ball sinks and moves all over the place. Plus, it's 90-92 miles per hour with some off-speed stuff. He spun a couple of breaking balls. Very proud of him."
Hill (9-1) worked into the seventh, but departed after the first two batters reached via a throwing error and walk. Floyd induced two groundouts and picked up a strikeout to finish off the top of the seventh.
"I went at them with fastballs today," Hill said. "Early on, I didn't locate well, but I settled in throughout the rest of the game and got some of those early start butterflies out."
The floodgates opened for Crowder in the bottom half, scoring a whopping seven tallies. Logan Chambers started it off with a solo shot, while Josh Patrick, Peyton Holt and Frankie Circello all scored on bases loaded walks and Gavin Glasgow came across on a hit by pitch to Chaz Poppy.
The Roughriders batted around and Chambers delivered the knock to put the nail in the coffin. He finished 2 for 5 with three runs driven in.
"Logan Chambers is one of the best players in the country," Lallemand said. "Maybe not numbers-wise, but there's not a guy that probably a lot of junior colleges want in that box other than that guy right there."
Jefferson got on the board first when Jack Rigoni hit an RBI single in the opening frame, but Crowder responded with three runs in the bottom of the second.
After a Glasgow double, Circello stepped to the plate and hammered a pitch to dead center that went at least 430 feet for a two-run blast. Jeffry Mercado followed with a home run to right field to make the score 3-1.
Circello finished the game with three RBI, two runs and a walk.
"He has hit some that I swear were probably over 500 feet," Lallemand said. "That guy is as strong as a bull. When he gets ahold of a ball, you are mesmerized by how far they go."
After slugging over 90 home runs during the regular season, the Roughriders were simply picking up right where they left off on Friday.
"We have got big-swing ability," Lallemand said. "We have big-inning capability top-to-bottom in the lineup. I think that's what has made us go throughout the year."
"Being a pitcher on this staff, you are going to get the run support," Hill said. "That's always big because if we give up one or two — they are going to come back with three or four. Deep into ball games when you need them to be clutch, they come in clutch."