No fewer than five decades’ worth of combined experience in the game stood toe-to-toe Saturday, March 28 before witnesses privy to observe the outdoor spectacle.
A scaled-down, La Plata County, Colo., version of the ‘Rumble in the Jungle,’ to be sure.
And yes, baseball was also – probably – in the minds of Ignacio’s Robert ‘Big Hurt Bert’ Miller and Durango’s Tom ‘Hears a Who’ Horton while hearing the arbiters’ final, pre-main event instructions.
Bowling’s got ‘The Big Lebowski’; this battle was about who had The Big Hrabosky – Fu Manchu-style facial hair (silvery white, in this instance) resembling that of Major League Baseball’s ‘Mad Hungarian’ reliever of the 1970’s and early 80’s. And when both came out of the meeting clean, this scribe came out writin’.
Because in regards to the action which then transpired on Ward Lee Field, adjacent to the LPC Fairgrounds, well, there wasn’t much to write home about – unless writing of the home side, DHS’ JV.
After stranding a runner at third in the bottom of the first, the Demons jumped on Bobcat freshman Juanito Medina for seven runs in the second, with right-handed pitcher Drew Selser (batting fifth in Horton’s lineup) getting the first and last hits in a 12-man at-bat.
Selser would again single in a four-run third inning off IHS senior Iaasic Pena, and leftfielder Jake Bourdon doubled and scored the engagement’s twelveth and final run in the fourth off junior Austin McCaw.
Pinch-hitting in Miller’s 6-hole, Ignacio’s Timmy Plehinger, Rain Rosa and Alex Lopez (PH’ing at No. 8) went down on strikes in the guests’ last-gasp fifth inning as Selser completed a splendid eight-K, two-walk [to Pena leading off the second, Raphael Herrera beginning the third] no-hit shutout.
“Drew threw really well. Around the plate, mixing it up well – we couldn’t figure it out,” Miller said. “And our defense just went away today; I mean maybe two earned runs?”
“Didn’t really expect it – I never really expect anything – but I’m glad it happened,” Selser said of his offensive and defensive efforts. “Kept them off-balance, mixed speeds; it was a good game.”
“Ignacio’s vastly improved, I think, from past years – I’ve obviously seen them for a lot of years,” said Horton, previously head varsity coach at 3A Bayfield. “I thought if we came out, played our game, and didn’t kick the ball around that we should win, but you never know! Because they’re looking better.”
And Horton would have known, having seen and scouted the Cats – a ‘Receiving Votes’ team in the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll – as they rallied from a 4-0 first-inning deficit to pull away, 12-6, from non-league 2A Sargent less than two days earlier.
In which Medina (1.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 2 BB, K vs. DHS), who took the loss against the 4A Demon JV, capped off Ignacio’s attack with an RBI-triple in the bottom of the sixth upon SunUte Field.
“I came in striking out three times and just felt I needed to get a hit at the end,” he said. “Came out with that triple – didn’t think I was going to get it! – and it was good.”
Leading off that same inning against Farmer reliever Michael Ulibarri, Pena pounded a ball over the left-field fence for IHS’ first homer of the season, in the team’s home opener after a season-starting 1-2 showing at the previous weekend’s Piedra Vista JV Invitational down in Farmington, N.M.
“The pitch before that he got hit in the head for a called strike!” laughed Miller, of a bizarre play in which Pena was penalized for apparently leaning into the delivery. “Might have been a little upset; he hit it pretty hard!”
“Yeah I knew I had two strikes, had to hit anything close,” Pena said. “So I just didn’t mess with it!”
Left-hander Zach Weinreich (3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, HB, 5 K) earned the victory, with Plehinger and junior Tucker Ward combining for seven strikeouts against only one walk in four frames of relief.
“Zach got through a rough first and pitched well after that,” said Miller, taking over this spring from Lupe Huerta. “Timmy came in and threw great, and obviously our closer [Ward] was pretty special.”
Nine Cats in all had at least one hit in defeating SHS, led by McCaw’s 2-for-2, one-run, one-RBI work. Ward was 1-3 with a run and two knocked in, Weinreich was 1-3 with a run and a ribbie, and Pena 1-2 with two walks, a run and an RBI as IHS’ pressure created numerous Sargent mistakes.
Farmer senior Kenon Miner (1.1 IP, 6 R, 3 BB, HB, 3 K) was laden with the loss as a consequence.
“As long as we have errors going we’re not going to get anything,” said SHS 2B/CF Emmitt White, who was 2-4 with a run and two RBI. “If we can clean up the errors, then we’ll win our games.”
“We had some fielding errors for sure – got to clean that up,” agreed Rosa, third baseman in both games while Pena was on the hill, behind the plate and even at second base. “But all around we’re looking pretty strong.”
“Putting a couple good wins under our belt is going to boost our confidence, help us play better and get better as a team,” Pena said. “So we’re just going to take it game by game and play hard!”
And speaking of hard, deciding a champ in the Great ’Stache Clash was as difficult as it gets.
“Well I like mine better!” declared Horton. “But he probably likes his – it was probably a draw!”
Miller’s take was far more partisan.
“Oh, me! Obviously!” he laughed. “It’s a lot better-looking mustache!”
No word yet on when the rematch will occur.
Two up and three down overall as of Monday, March 30, under its new skipper, Ignacio will next see opposition on Friday, April 3 out at non-league 2A Center, the preseason poll’s No. 10, with first pitch slated for 11:00 a.m.
“We’ve got to come and play with confidence, come out and hit the ball,” said Medina. “Play with our heads up the entire game.”
“I’m proud of the boys. They don’t quit when they fall behind; they stay in there and battle!” Miller stated. “We’ll practice hard all Spring Break, come back and give it another shot!”