HILLSBORO, Mo. — With half the team injured and out of action, an all-freshman defense and a team schedule that included sandbagging for flood relief, Three Rivers still pushed the top team in Region XVI.
In the sub-regional round of the Region XVI Tournament, Three Rivers College was tied with Jefferson through seven innings of the opener before losing 9-2 on Saturday. Jefferson then won the nightcap 12-4 in seven innings to clinch the best-of-3 series and advance to semifi nals.
"I haven't encountered the degree of injuries we've had this year in any one season," said Three Rivers coach Stacey Burkey, who has been the head coach for 24 seasons. "I was really proud of the way these guys fought through the end of it." Raiders pitcher Tyler McLevain gave up a leadoff home run to start his day. The next batter reached on a strike three, wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly. After that, McLevain allowed one hit and four total batters until a troublesome eighth inning. He retired the side in the third, sixth and seven innings and struck out six total. He gave up a pair of walks, and Raider catcher Matt Robbins threw both out trying to steal second. "He was just really mixing his pitches well. His velocity was good and he had a couple low pitch count innings where he was able to stay strong late in the game," Burkey said. "He really stepped up and certainly had those guys on the ropes." With his pitch count just under 100 after seven innings, McLevain came out and got a quick groundout to short. It was that last out the sophomore would get as a Raider. The next three Vikings loaded the bases for cleanup hitter Justin Dirden, who drilled a grand slam to center. The Raiders didn't get a hit after the sixth inning. Ryan Hunter, hit by a pitch to lead off the sixth, was the final Raider to reach base. William Stallings hit into a 1-3-6 double play, meaning Vikings pitchers faced the minimum over the fi nal three innings. Three Rivers (13-30), which stranded eight runners, five in scoring position and the bases loaded in the sixth, scored both runs in the fourth after a pair of Jefferson errors. Robbins walked and Dylan Kater reached on an error that put runners on the corners. On a double steal, Robbins scored on a error by the catcher and Kater took second. Grant Miller then hit a two-out single to right field to score Kater.
Jefferson (42-12), switching from the home team found its big inning much sooner in the nightcap. The Vikings scored seven in the third and led 10-0 before the Raiders got on the scoreboard. Three Rivers had two hits through the first four innings, both by Hunter. Parker Dent drew a walk to leadoff the fi fth and with two outs, Garyn Stewart had an RBI double to left. Hunter, who went 4 for 4 with a double and three RBIs in the game, singled in Stewart. "Ryan can do a lot of things for us and he is certainly going to be a leader for us next year," Burkey said. In the seventh, Miller drew a walk and Lane Crowley doubled to right before Hunter added a two run single to right. Ty Gordon, Parker Dent and Lane Crowley each pitched about two innings for the Raiders, in that order. Gordon took the loss after allowing three hits and four walks with two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings.
Six players from Three Rivers' opening day lineup, including starting pitcher Tyler Kuhlmann, were not available for the region tournament and Burkey had 14 available players Saturday. McLevain was the only one of Three Rivers' 10 pitchers to throw more than 40 innings in Three Rivers' 43 games. Starting shortstop Garyn Stewart even got an inning of work three weeks ago against Crowder when Burkey had nothing left in his decimated bullpen. The Raiders had four position players appear in at least 40 games and three appear in less than 10.