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May 23—The Crowder College baseball team had to earn its stripes every step of the way, but at long last, the Roughriders are Grand Junction-bound.

Behind four home runs, the No. 3-ranked Roughriders topped Eastern Oklahoma State 9-4 in the championship game of the South Central District Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Owasso (Okla.) High School’s Stigall Field.

And for the first time since 2017, Crowder is sending its team to the NJCAA World Series in Colorado.

“These guys deserve it,” Roughriders coach Travis Lallemand said. “They have played extremely well over the last three weeks of postseason. They beat one of the best arms in the country yesterday and another good one today. They earned it every step of the way. I’m just happy for those guys. They earned it.”

Crowder outscored its opponents 29-8 while going 3-0 en route to the South Central crown.

“We stayed to our identity: We pitched and played defense,” Lallemand said. “We never got discouraged at the plate, even when we punched out a few times in a row in Game 2. They stuck to the plan and executed great. Obviously, we were rewarded with the long ball. We hit 11 home runs in three games. That’s been something we have done throughout the year. We had some big swings and made some big pitches. The defense showed up. All three phases were pretty good today.”

The Roughriders’ offense outhit the No. 9 Mountaineers 12-8, jumping out to a 4-0 lead after two innings. Eastern Oklahoma answered with four runs over the third and fourth frames to knot the score at 4-4.

But Crowder finished the game by scoring five unanswered runs.

Maddox Thornton, who took over for starter Dylan Carter in the fourth, tossed four shutout frames. He struck out one and limited the Mountaineers to three hits.

Connor Floyd notched the save for Crowder, posting zeros in the eighth and ninth.

Leading the way offensively, Josh Patrick and Landrey Wilkerson went deep four times total while driving in three apiece. Jeffry Mercado and Chaz Poppy both scored runs and added two hits each.

Logan Chambers finished with two RBI and one hit to round out the Roughriders’ production.

The NJCAA World Series will take place at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, starting on May 29. The championship round is scheduled for June 4-5.

“The rankings will come out Monday,” Lallemand said. “It used to be predetermined, but it goes by seeding now. Wherever we get seeded, I’m assuming we’ll be maybe 3-5 if it’s based on the national rankings. It’s a very talented field out there. We’ll see how the committee does it. It’s something new. It started last year and the World Series never happened, obviously. We’ll wait and see. It’s pretty unpredictable at this point though.”

Regardless of Crowder’s next opponent, Lallemand can’t wait to compete against the nation’s best junior college programs.

“Yeah, they finished it,” Lallemand said. “We have had a lot of talented clubs and good years. At this level, you never take it for granted. Somebody can clip you. It’s baseball. On any given day, you can go out and get beat. They refused to. They just continued to play. They continued to compete all week and really for the last three weeks in postseason play let alone the whole season. It’s an amazing feeling. Grand Junction is a destination for every junior college when they start in August, and we are going to be the one of the last 10 teams standing. We’re super excited.”