La Junta stuns Bayfield baseball

Friday, May 16, 2014 12:42 AM

Bayfield Baseball radio Dave Bray said people would be "talking about that game for years." KBLJ-AM's Pat McGee, seated beneath the press box, probably said something similar to his audience back in Otero County.

The radio announcers and the Wolverines had just watched, as BHS junior Matthew Knickerbocker later mused, "the best 28-seed ever."

Sure, the distinction was conferred out of shock and wrapped in sarcastic sincerity, but also true of the two stunning innings in which La Junta steamrolled the Wolverines into a huge lead. It was enough separation to withstand the locals' late-stage rally and oust Class 3A's five-seed, 11 to 10.

Montrose and Delta (4A's 1- and 4-seed) would amazingly join BHS the same day as powerful southwestern squads sent home startlingly soon in state playoff action.

The Tigers took the first and third innings, the Wolverines (16-4) took six and seven-hinting that, like the final score, Bayfield was just an inning, or a run away from the District 4 championship.

La Junta didn't do well later in the tournament, humbled 9-3 by 12-seed Greeley University, who'd just squeaked past upset-minded #21 Olathe (11-9) 9 to 8 in the tourney's other semifinal.

"They should thank US for using up all their (La Junta's) pitching," was another comment overheard coming from one of the few Bayfield players-still remaining at the diamond, as the good hosts to all the various guests who'd traveled hundreds of miles from the Eastern Plains and Western Slope-volunteering in the booth to either run the scoreboard or keep the neutral-perspective scorebook.

La Junta junior Cody Knoell pitched against BHS. He faced just the starting nine Wolverines during the first two innings, allowed none to score and stranded two runners at third base and one at second.

Started by Coach Jon Qualls over Knickerbocker and senior Trey Lange, sophomore Brody McGhehey also got out of the first unscathed, but began the La Junta second beaning 5-man Carlos Triana and walking Knoell. Matters quickly became major when Izahiah Peteque followed with a single to plate the former, and centerfielder Anthony Chamblee misplayed the ball to grant passage to the latter.

McGhehey recovered by fanning bottom-enders Dax Bender and Pablo Martinez, but they would be his last two recorded outs; Weber, in the leadoff slot, singled to right and Cole Bryant and Elias Altamirano followed with back-to-back doubles to right. Altamirano's rap put the Tigers up 5-0, and he then made it 6-love being brought around via Mitch Eggert's fly to left mishandled by Taed Heydinger.

Qualls had seen enough, and brought Knickerbocker to the mound. Triana then went down swinging, temporarily ending the onslaught. 'Temporarily,' because Knoell led off the visitors' third with a double to center, Peteque (2-3, BB, 3 R, RBI) walked, and Bender reached on a Knickerbocker error.

Martinez (1-3, 4 RBI) then dealt Bayfield a crushing blow: a bases-clearing double to deep right-center for a 9-nil advantage before Knickerbocker found his groove and retired 13 of LJHS' last 17 batters. Additionally, two of the four who reached during that stretch quickly became double-play casualties-including a slick 4-6-3 [Dillon Hoselton-Lange-Noah Loutherback] killing ending the Tigers' seventh.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines had gradually clawed their way back into the hunt, starting with Chamblee's shutout-snapping scratch in the bottom of the third.

McGhehey (2-3, 2 R) and Hoselton scored in the fourth, Lange (1-3, 2 R, RBI) scored on a Loutherback single in the fifth, and Chamblee, Knickerbocker (2-5, R, RBI), senior Adam Ridens (courtesy-running for catcher Kelton McCoy), Lange, and McGhehey all rounded the bags in a hair-raising sixth to viciously chop La Junta's lead down to 11-9.

And, most importantly, knock Knoell (W; 5.1 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 4 BB, 8 K) off the bump before Bryant finished the inning with K's of senior Ruben Renteria-Sanchez (looking) and Chamblee (swinging).

But cruelly and coldly, a DP ultimately did BHS in, despite Ridens (again for McCoy) touching home from third with what could have been the tying run if La Junta's fielding broke down. It did not.

With one away Loutherback (2-5, 3 RBI) smacked a grounder at, ironically, Knoell, who'd been moved to shortstop with Weber given closing duty on the mound.

Knoell smoothly scooped the sphere, slung it to Bender to retire McGhehey (L; 1.2 IP, 6 R, 5 H, 2 BB, HB, 2 K), and Bender then finished the 6-4-3 with a perfect throw to Triana.

And that was that.