Fri May 1st, 2015
Special to the Drum
IHS pressures top-ten opposition
With a quality 6-3 defeat of tenth-ranked [CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll, released April 20] Dove Creek, on the road in 2A/1A San Juan Basin League play no less, IHS Baseball appeared to have taken the “step forward” head coach Bert Miller had long been talking about and searching for.
Three days later on Saturday, April 25, SJBL powerhouse Nucla – the aforementioned weekly statewide rankings’ No. 8 squad – pressured the Bobcats into taking two steps back.
But only ‘baby’ steps; blasted by NHS by 13 runs at sun-soaked SunUte Field just over a week before, Ignacio built off senior Iaasic Peña’s pitching against the Bulldogs to rein in the Mustangs within their own rain-ravaged, West End (so called in Montrose County) confines despite losing 6-5 and 5-3.
Peña led the way offensively against not only Nucla but also Mother Nature with four runs batted in and cracked four singles on the day. He was also hit squarely in the helmet by a Graden Steffan pitch in the top of the sixth inning of game one, but trotted down to first base and later scored IHS’ third run – giving the Cats a brief 3-2 advantage before an RBI-single by Steffan in the home half pulled the Mustangs even.
Peña answered in the top of the seventh with a two-out RBI-single to plate Tucker Ward (1-3, BB, 2 R in Game 1) and then scored on Austin McCaw’s subsequent single to left.
NHS shortstop Clint Watt led off the bottom of the seventh tripling to center and later scored on a delayed double-steal (Mason Riddle, who’d walked, drew the catcher’s throw while swiping second), and Nucla again tied the score when Riddle scored from third on a fielder’s-choice grounder off leadoff man Devyn Rummel’s stick.
On the mound for a second frame in relief of Ward (ND; 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 K), Peña (ND; 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 K) managed to get both Steffan and 3-man Caden Colson to pop up to second baseman Timmy Plehinger and send the game into extra innings.
Deciding to pull Steffan (ND; 7 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, HB, 7 K) in favor of right-fielder Tim Armintrout (W; IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 K), Mustang boss Clint Wytulka clearly hoped for a swift set-down of Ignacio’s tail-enders and got it when Armintrout struck out Juanito Medina looking, got Zach Weinreich swinging and froze Plehinger to escape unscathed…and then drew a walk starting the bottom of the eighth.
Medina (L; 0.1 IP, 2 BB, K) then fanned 5-man Lane Sutherland, but after Armintrout stole second during Sutherland’s AB, Miller elected to intentionally walk Watt (2-3, BB, R) and instead face the 0-for-3 Riddle with a potential inning-killing double play at stake.
Armintrout, however, didn’t let that possibility arise and took off on a surprise attempt at third, reaching safely and then bringing in the winning run when the hurried throw to the base went into left field.
Some heads drooped and some tempers flared, but taking heed to assistant coach Clay Miller’s reinforcement that they had indeed played a strong game in enemy territory – “This is baseball!” he said as players filed out through the gate for a hard-earned break – the Bobcats (3-12, 1-6 SJBL) regrouped to again hunt the Mustangs and nearly devour a 4-1 deficit facing them after the first frame of Game 2.
Steffan, Colson, Watt and Armintrout all reached and scored off McCaw, while Ward touched the plate on a full-count hit by Peña after Armintrout K’d leadoff man Tyler Beebe and 2-man Rain Rosa.
But as McCaw and, later, Medina both settled in up on the rubber, Nucla (5-2 SJBL, overall record incomplete) managed just four base-runners before batting in the home half of the fifth – after Ward had again scored on a Peña knock to cap a two-run rally, cutting NHS’ lead down to 4-3.
With lightning lurking within the day’s second storm coming in from the west, the pressure was on both sides to complete as many innings as possible before conditions deteriorated beyond repair, and Nucla managed to scratch out a key insurance run in the bottom of the fifth.
Medina then struck out starting the guests’ sixth, but Plehinger singled to keep IHS’ hopes alive.
Unfortunately fate had other ideas; the 8-9 spots in the order were unable to bump him around and the contest was called after 5½ finished innings with McCaw taking the loss.
IHS wraps up the regular season on Saturday, May 2, with a doubleheader at SunUte (starting 1:00 p.m.) versus SJBL rivals Dolores (7-6, 5-2), and Tuesday the May 5 with a 3 p.m. non-leaguer at 3A Pagosa Springs.