By Joel Priest
Special to the Drum
Like thoroughbreds building up speed in races leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Bobcat Baseball built it up for a highly anticipated postseason by leaving 2A/1A San Juan Basin League arch-nemesis Dolores in the dust.
Traveling to Gonzales Field at Joe Rowell Park Thursday, May 5 (rescheduled from Saturday, April 30), Ignacio wasted no time grabbing the circuit crown. Scoring three runs in the top of the doubleheader’s first inning and adding four in the second, IHS battered the Bears for another nine in the third before Bert Miller began emptying his bench and getting not only his reserves some playing time but also some of his JV/V swing players.
Ignacio then tacked on two more runs in the fourth for good measure, and locked up a lopsided 18-1 victory an inning later when DHS’ 8-9-1 spots went down in order and Dolores having managed just an RBI-single by junior Brandon Ward, scoring freshman Dakota Smith, in the bottom of the second.
Senior Anthony Manzanares went 4-for-4, was also hit by a pitch and scored four runs to pace the ’Cats, while classmate Tucker Ward – who started on the mound against DHS sophomore Justin Purkat – went 3-3 with a double, a walk and also scored four times.
Having been brutally alerted to the fact that yes, they were indeed facing their most despised enemy, the Bears actually managed to show a tooth or two and scraped together a go-ahead two runs in the bottom of the first off Ignacio junior Zach Weinreich, after Manzanares led off the game wearing senior Josh McCoy’s pitch and later scoring on senior Austin McCaw’s two-out double.
With one away in their first collective at-bat of Game 2, Purkat and sophomore Tel Hamilton each singled, and after Weinreich got opposing number McCoy to bounce back to the mound for the second out, Smith singled and Ward doubled to give Dolores a 2-1 lead and their supporters a faintly-flickering hope.
But Weinreich cut short that counterstrike by fanning sophomore designated hitter Eric Eastman, and the Bobcats then extinguished that fire by cobbling together three runs in the top of the second and as many in the third for a 7-2 advantage. And it would never be threatened; DHS managed only three hits between the second and seventh innings in ultimately losing 12-2.
Senior Chance Hine reached base all four of his plate appearances and scored an IHS-high three runs, while junior Timmy Plehinger, Manzanares and sophomore Nate Atencio each scored twice. Weinreich went 0-2 with two walks and a run, sophomore Kruz Pardo was 2-4 with a walk, double and run, and Ward 2-5 with a double and a run.
Having put up at least a dozen runs in each of their most recent four outings (all wins) to end the regular season, and now in six of their last seven, Ignacio will enter the 2A-District 2 Tournament standing a stout 13-4 overall and a SJBL-best 8-1.
The Bears, meanwhile, bottomed out at 0-16 overall – one unreported loss dealt them by the potent Ignacio JV on Day 2 of the IHS Invitational back in March – and 0-9 in the loop.
Today, the Bobcats play against Cedaredge at 4 p.m. in Cortez, and if they win they will take on Hotchkiss at 1 p.m. tomorrow May 14 in the Semifinals; championship game follows at 3:30 p.m.
But though each district qualifies only one team directly to the May 20-21 regionals, eight additional teams will be determined for that phase of spring by CHSAA’s RPI system. As of Monday Ignacio stood 17th in that computer model, 0.025 behind Littleton Front Range Christian.
All 16 squads will then be seeded into the bracket by RPI, avoiding district match-ups when/if possible.
ALREADY IN THE BOOKS
Representing the SJBL in the 1A-District 1 Tournament on Friday, May 6, second-place (and fifth-ranked in the 5/2 CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll) Nucla and third-place Dove Creek drubbed their initial opponents in the four-team bracket.
The Mustangs, 7-2 in the SJBL, blanked Antonito 10-0, and the Bulldogs (3-6 SJBL) crushed No. 6 Cotopaxi 18-3 to set up a head-to-head for the district’s automatic berth into the May 14 regional/semifinal bracket – to be spread out between Denver’s All-City Stadium and Lakewood’s All-Star Park.
DCHS, which scrimmaged the Bobcats at IHS Field two days before to prepare for the postseason, then blasted NHS 14-4 to improve to 8-13 overall and take a great step towards repeating as State Champions. Nucla dipped to 10-11, but was one of four RPI-determined wild cards chosen for the upcoming eight-team bracket.
Seeded sixth, the Mustangs will first face 3-seed Holly while the 8-seed ’Dogs battle No. 1 Granada.
The State Championship game is scheduled for May 19 at All-Star Park.