Having seen teammate Caden Colson’s outside fastball vapor-lock opposing third baseman Kai Roubideaux for a called third strike, ending the day’s first clash with the tying run stuck at the hot corner, Trenton Armintrout immediately tried re-kindling that spark after a chilly half-hour pause in the April 23 doubleheader.
Earning the win on the mound in game one, allowing visiting Ignacio just three runs on two hits and fanning five during his 5-1/3 finished frames, Armintrout gave instant support to Game 2 starter Devyn Rummel with a diving snag of IHS leadoff batter Anthony Manzanares’ fly to center as Nucla looked to follow up a 6-5 win.
“I didn’t think I’d catch it either,” Armintrout would jokingly recall after the teams’ 2A/1A San Juan Basin League twinbill was all said and done at Sam ‘Jim’ Richards Memorial Field, at last soaked in sun after being whipped by winds gusting between 25 and 30 miles per hour beneath a constantly overcast Montrose County sky.
“We should have won that game,” junior Zach Weinreich (L; 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) agreed. “It was a close game and a good battle, and the fact that we can overcome a four-nothing deficit was pretty huge.”
Armintrout’s grab was countered by Bobcat sophomore rightfielder Cole McCaw’s squeeze of Rummel’s bid for extra bases against senior Tucker Ward beginning the bottom of the first inning, and neither team could manage much offensively as the score remained 0-0 going into the third.
But that would change in an amazing hurry:
Neither Manzanares nor Rummel would make another out when in the batter’s box, and if he was to again be retired for a third Ignacio out, Roubideaux made sure this time to go down swinging … as he vied for a possible third hit during the visitors’ incendiary at-bat.
Batting eighth in Bert Miller’s lineup, the sophomore began by singling to right off Rummel, then chased the Mustang junior off the bump with a 2-RBI double as the ’Cats started through their order a second time suddenly leading 8-0. It was already Ignacio’s fifth two-bagger during the explosion, coming one batter after senior Austin McCaw, junior Juanito Medina and Weinreich – hitting fourth, fifth and sixth – ripped back-to-back-to-back doubles to tear the game wide open.
“We want to come out swinging the bats – not let them decide whether we strike out or walk,” sophomore Kruz Pardo had stated prior to Game 2. “We want to make them make plays, not give them anything easy.”
Senior first baseman Andrew Martinez greeted NHS junior reliever Graden Steffan with a single up the middle. Manzanares then managed to beat out an infield roller, Pardo cracked a single to left, Ward reached on an error by Colson at second, and Austin McCaw singled to left.
Steffan then plunked Medina to re-load the bases, and Weinreich capped Ignacio’s 14-run rampage with a single to left before Steffan (3.1 IP, 13 H, 14 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) struck out Timmy Plehinger and Roubideaux.
Rummel singled and scored in the home half of the third to get Nucla on the scoreboard, but IHS went back to work with three runs – via a two-run homer to left by Ward and McCaw’s subsequent solo shot to right – in the top of the fourth. Highlighted by a run-scoring ground-rule double by Rummel and a later three-run tater by Cord Colson, the Mustangs mounted a credible comeback, cutting the Bobcats’ lead down to 17-9 entering the fifth.
And heading into the sixth the count was still somewhat close at 18-10; Weinreich had doubled and scored for IHS when substitute first baseman Marcus Chapman reached first with a fielder’s-choice grounder, and Rummel tripled and scored for NHS when Caden Colson reached on a Chapman error.
McCaw led off with a walk and Medina and Weinreich followed with singles, but after Plehinger and Roubideaux both struck out, Chapman (0-2, 3 R, RBI) walked and advanced all the way to third on two throwing errors. Steffan was then removed in favor of Will Gabriel after giving up an RBI-single to Manzanares.
Finishing the game an awesome 4-for-6 with a run and six RBI, Pardo greeted Gabriel with a single to plate Manzanares – himself an amazing 5-for-6 with four runs and a ribbie – and Ward then walked. McCaw, who’d gone 2-4 with a homer in Game 1, singled in Pardo and finished Game 2 4-for-5 with three runs and two knocked in.
Medina then belted a ground-rule double to left, scoring Ward for the Bobcats’ 25th run, then held the Mustangs on ten by getting designated hitter Sean Sutherland to pop back to the hill, freezing Cord Colson (2-4, R, 3 RBI) with a third strike, and getting – fittingly – Armintrout to fly to a repositioned Cole McCaw in center.
“I just came out and jumped on every pitch that was good, and came out successful,” Manzanares explained. “You know, once one person gets hot and starts hitting … everybody’s just feeling the energy, it rubs off on everybody, and we just keep going.”
Used as a DH for the younger McCaw, Weinreich finished the 15-run blowout going 4-for-6 with three runs and five RBI. Medina (2.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, BB, HB, 3 K) went 3-4 officially in his six plate appearances, scoring twice and plating one, and Roubideaux ended up 2-5 with two runs and as many batted in. 0-for-4 in Game 1, Ward (3.1 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 5 HB) not only worked for the win in Game 2 but was 1-5 with three runs and three RBI.
Taking the Game 2 loss, Rummel (2.1 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 7 ER, BB, HB, 2 K) went 3-4 with three runs and an RBI, after going 1-3 in the opener in which Cord Colson went 2-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Armintrout, who did score once in Game 2, was held to a combined 0-5 with four K’s in seven plate appearances.
Having lost the SJBL lead but having taken one of the season’s three meetings with surprising Ignacio, Nucla actually rose one spot in the CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll (issued 4/25) from eighth to seventh, while the Bobcats still – somehow – remained off the 2A radar, despite having improved to 10-4 overall and 6-1 in league. NHS dipped to 7-9, 5-2 with only an April 30 pair at Dove Creek remaining on their slate.
“I’m ready,” said Caden Colson. “I want to win … it’s going to be tough because I know they want it too.”
IHS will travel that day for two at Dolores and, barring an epic disaster, should secure the circuit crown.
“We’ve got to get going early,” Austin McCaw said. “Got to get going early and just stay hot!”
Ignacio’s regular-season schedule then ends with a May 3 pair versus 3A Pagosa Springs at IHS Field.
MOMENT OF REALIZATION
McCaw’s one-out solo homer in Game 1 had cut the Mustangs’ lead at the time down to 5-2, and Medina would then walk and score on a passed ball charged to NHS senior catcher Mason Riddle with Weinreich up to bat. But though Ignacio would ultimately lose by one, the tone for Game 2 was unknowingly set when Pardo pulled off his version of Enos Slaughter’s 1946 World Series-winning ‘Mad Dash’:
“The backstop, it’s way back there,” he explained. “With me catching, I had a couple passed balls and I’d run back like, ‘There’s a lot of space here! Someone could possibly round the bases!’”
Singling in Manzanares, who’d led off the Bobcats’ seventh with a double, Pardo then took off to swipe second base, but Caden Colson’s pitch to Ward bypassed Riddle…all the way to that distant backstop.
“I saw he was just jogging back there, so I was like, ‘I’m going to take third!’” said Pardo, who then sprinted home when Riddle’s throw to third baseman Sladen Hendrickson sailed into leftfield. “And…it worked out – I didn’t think he was going to try! I wouldn’t have!”
“I knew I was going to have to catch both games,” Pardo noted. “And the thing was, if I were to get on base … I’d have a pinch-runner for me, like every single time, just to keep me fresh.”
Fortunately for the Bobcats, he ran for himself that singular time.
Replaced by Chapman in the bottom of the third during Game 2, Martinez helped keep the Bobcats’ intensity as high in the field as it had been at the plate. And after Ward struck out Sutherland swinging, the vocal senior had no hesitation predicting – and announcing – the exit of Cord Colson, down to his last strike.
Right as the ball left Ward’s right hand with the crowd mostly muted, Martinez let out a “See ya!” shout with the home-plate umpire then ringing up a motionless Colson to end the inning and maroon two Mustangs.
“I knew it was going to happen,” he said, awaiting his teammates’ energetic return to the dugout.