Dreams dashed as ’Cats fall in regional finale

Scoring via wild pitch, Ignacio’s Devante Montoya glances up at the home plate umpire to see he’s been ruled safe after sliding beneath the tag of Clear Creek pitcher Joe Monseu during 2A-Region VIII semifinal action Saturday, May 21, in Wiggins. The Bobcats would defeat the Golddiggers 8-5.
Ignacio's Eppie Quintana (20) was the winning pitcher in the Bobcats' 8-5 victory over Clear Creek in one 2A-Region VIII semifinal Saturday, May 21, in Wiggins.
Ignacio's Phillip Quintana (5) capped the Bobcats' 8-5 win over Clear Creek in 2A-Region VIII semifinal play by pitching a scoreless seventh inning and striking out three Golddiggers. He then went the distance against event-hosting Wiggins but took the 'L' as the Tigers prevailed 6-1.
Ignacio's Jacob Gallegos (12) arrives at third base, as Wiggins' Tyler Belinder (11) realizes the incoming relay throw is badly off-line during the 2A-Region VIII championship Saturday, May 21, at WHS' AP Memorial Ballpark. Gallegos would score the Bobcats' only run in a 6-1 loss via the error, coming after he'd tripled cleanly to deep left-center.
Wiggins' Toribio Gomez (1) strides into second base, just beyond the reach of Ignacio's Jacob Gallegos (12) during the 2A-Region VIII championship game Saturday, May 21, at WHS' AP Memorial Ballpark.
Preparing to warm up a pitcher while his regular catcher actually dons protective gear in the dugout, defenseless Ignacio head coach Duke Baker takes the home plate umpire's friendly barb Saturday, May 21, during 2A-Region VIII tournament action in Wiggins.
Beyond the reach of Clear Creek catcher Evan Brandt, Ignacio’s Devante Montoya (11) strides towards home plate during 2A-Region VIII semifinal play in Wiggins.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

IHS clips Clear Creek, loses to hosting Wiggins

Having seen a possible perfect game, more-probable no-hitter, and an all-but-assured shutout stolen from him by one fourth-inning swing of Ignacio sophomore Jacob Gallegos’ bat, Wiggins junior Taryn Yzaguirre knew just how dangerous the Bobcat would be when he saw him again in the sixth stanza Saturday afternoon, May 21.

Complicating matters further, speedy leadoff Bobcat Devante Montoya had drawn a walk, meaning a Gallegos hack mimicking that which hammered a one-out triple to deep left-center (Gallegos then scored via a wild relay to third baseman Tyler Belinder) could realistically halve the 2A-Region VIII Tournament hosts’ 6-1 lead and inspire the away side into ‘upset’ mode.

But it wasn’t meant to be for IHS; Gallegos lashed another threatening drive to center, but WHS senior Toribio Gomez made an incredible diving catch, saving at least another three-bagger – if not an inside-the-park homer – had he missed, and effectively sapping just enough of the never-say-die Bobcats’ energy.

After reaching second when junior Eppie Quintana gained first via an error by senior shortstop Brody Frye, Montoya would advance to third via a Phillip Quintana fielder’s-choice grounder to second baseman Aaron Mendoza, forcing out Eppie Quintana, but remain at the hot corner when Rylan Maez went down swinging.

Looking like a pitcher who’d just had an immense weight lifted off his shoulders, even after Phillip Quintana gamely blanked Wiggins in the bottom of the sixth, Yzaguirre authoritatively struck out Dylan McCaw swinging, then froze Elliott Hendren with a called third strike, and ultimately got Marcus Maez to line out to first baseman Truett Freauff – securing WHS a title in defense of recently-christened AP Memorial Ballpark.

And the Tigers couldn’t help but admit that perhaps the site’s namesake had been watching.

“We may have had an angel out there,” said grinning head coach Gabe Gallegos, alluding to program-reinvigorating predecessor Aaron Phillips, killed at age 33 in a vehicle accident near Brighton less than a month after guiding Wiggins to the 2019 CHSAA Class 2A State Tournament’s Final Four (his Tigers then fell to eventual State Champion Peyton).

“He brought me on his staff and I was able to coach with him, and I’ve been lucky enough … keeping this going, you know?He laid the groundwork for it all and we’re just riding those coattails, preaching that message and doing what we do.”

“For sure,” agreed Yzaguirre.“And that was a great play by Toribio. My defense stepped up; that was huge.”

“We all locked in today; we all played great,” he continued.“Our bats were there, and that was huge for us.”

Because ninth-seeded Ignacio, despite Yzaguirre (W, CG; 7 IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, 7 K) not only singling in the finale’s first two runs and also retiring the first ten ’Cats he faced, wasn’t to be easily broken after rallying past 24-seed Evergreen Clear Creek, 8 to 5, in the sun-soaked, snow-dodging day’s first semifinal.

Able to throw three scoreless innings during his start and strand seven Tigers in scoring position, Phillip Quintana (L, CG; 6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 HB, 3 K), in particular, made IHS’ resolve very much known.

“Yeah, I really wanted to play these guys,” he said.“I knew they were a good team, so I was … just really excited to pitch against a team like that.I haven’t really done that this year.”

Older brother Eppie also had a sense that after Phillip fanned CCHS’ Connor Kennedy, the sophomore was primed.

“Even though it stung my hand like no other, it felt great,” joked Eppie Quintana, the winning pitcher (6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, HB, 7 K) against the Golddiggers (11-10 overall) and catcher when Kennedy became Clear Creek’s final out.“But he came through clutch when he needed to do a job.Hopefully we can get this next game!”

Seeded eighth in the 2022 State Tournament’s initial Round-of-32, and having outgunned Westcliffe-based No. 25 Custer County (13-11 overall) in the second semi, 16 to 10, WHS’ lead on Ignacio increased to 3-0 in the bottom of the third inning when Yzaguirre reached on a rare Jacob Gallegos error with two out, and courtesy runner Marcus Stienbar (2 R) then scored via consecutive singles to left by Ryder Baessler and Julio Flores.

After the Bobcats at last got on the scoreboard, cutting Wiggins’ lead down to 3-1, the Tigers (16-9 overall) separated for good with three runs in the fifth.Catcher Grayson Johnson (1-2, BB, HBP) led off being hit by a pitch, and Yzaguirre (2-3, 3 RBI) promptly plated courtesy runner J.R. Meyer (2 R) by doubling to center.Baessler (1-3, BB) then struck out, but Flores reached via an error by second baseman Marcus Maez, and Stienbar then scored on a Mendoza groundout to amends-making Maez.

Belinder was then beaned, and Flores (1-3, FC, R, RBI) came in to score when third baseman Montoya booted a Freauff bouncer.The hard-hitting Frye, who’d tripled thrice and ended up 5-for-5 against Custer County, then grounded out unassisted to Rylan Maez at first, but serious and sufficient damage had been done.

“When Taryn came up to the plate, got a hit and … knocked two runs in, we just kind of went from there,” said Frye (1-4).“Just had little knocks here and there; once we get into a rhythm and start hitting, we get RBIs and it fuels everyone’s fire.”

“It feels pretty good, to be honest.We’ve been trying hard in practice, and this is what we’ve been waiting for all year.”

Wiggins will next head to Pueblo on Friday, May 27, to test unbeaten 1-seed Limon (23-0) in the Great Eight.

“It’s huge. A few years ago (WHS) made the Final Four, then … there was COVID, and last year we didn’t quite make it,” Yzaguirre said, recalling the Tigers’ 2021 loss to Buena Vista in the second round of a pandemic-wary 24-team State tourney.“So we’re excited.We play Limon, who beat us [12 to 1] earlier in the season, but we’re excited and we’re ready.”

“And that first time we played Limon we didn’t do the little things, you know?” Gabe Gallegos said.“You’ve got to take care of the little things and be there for your teammates; it’s going to take all nine (players on the field) to do what we need to do.”

In defeat, Jacob Gallegos and Hendren each ended up 1-for-3, and Montoya was 0-2 with a walk.

“It was just a really amazing season for all of us,” stated Phillip Quintana (0-3, FC).“No one thought that we’d be here, with the group we have right now, but we made it, showed everyone different.”

“We have so much talent on this team, but at the beginning of the season we weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Eppie Quintana (0-2, BB, ERR) said.“Shout-out to Coach Duke; he just came in and coached the way he thought we needed to be coached.Everyone’s just connected … close right now.”

In the victory over Clear Creek, in which the ’Diggers actually led 5-0 after the top of the first inning, seven ’Cats logged at least one hit. Eppie Quintana went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI, Gallegos was 1-3 with a walk and a run, and Montoya was 1-4, singling once and reaching via two errors, with two runs scored.

Phillip Quintana (IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K) was 1-2 and walked twice, and Rylan Maez was 1-3 with a walk and a run.Hendren was 1-3, singling once plus reaching once via error, with a run and one batted in.All told, IHS erased CCHS’ early advantage by scoring two runs in the bottom of the first, one in the second, one in the third, three in the fourth and one in the fifth before leaving the bases loaded in the sixth.

6’4” junior Joe Monseu took the loss for the ’Diggers, lasting 3-2/3 innings and giving up six runs on four hits while walking two Bobcats and striking out five.Kennedy worked 2-1/3 innings in relief, giving up two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out as many.Junior Evan Brandt, a rarity as a left-handed catcher, went 2-4 with a double and a run, and junior Bode Baker was 2-4 with a run.

Senior Jett Baker went 1-2 with a double, walk, and a hit-by-pitch, and junior Tucker Versailles was 1-4 with a double.Unfortunately he also hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play with bases loaded in the top of the sixth and Clear Creek appearing capable of equalizing.

“That was clutch,” said a relieved Eppie Quintana.“If that didn’t come through it would have been a closer game than what it was.It was definitely a play that needed to happen, and it did.”

“As a coach I couldn’t ask for a better group of boys, for sure,” first-year skipper Duke Baker said. “We improved from the beginning to the end, and that’s all that matters; these boys played their butts off.I’m so proud of each and every one of them.”

“But (the loss) stings though,” he confessed. “It stings.”

After finishing a COVID-condensed Spring 2021 season 5-9-1 overall, Ignacio roared back to 15-8 in a full-length ’22.

“We’re all so excited for next year,” Phillip Quintana said, “because we know all of these teams are losing three to four players.But … we’re not losing anyone, so we’re really excited.”

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