During a worrisome sixth inning, senior Nate Herrera made no bones about it: He needed a break.
"Come on, guys! Let's get off the field!" he shouted. "My legs are tired!"
But after young lefty Adam House managed to retire the visiting Bloomfield JV's 11th batter of the inning, Ignacio's catcher wouldn't have time to rest; he was due to lead off the home half.and did so getting plunked by a Jeremiah Ortega delivery.
Fortunately Herrera still had enough spring in his step Tuesday afternoon to score what would be the most important run of a game, originally slated to be IHS' March 13 season-opener.
Moved up to second via an Ortega balk with the score even at 9-9, Herrera then took third when senior Marcus Chapman laid down a bunt too perfectly for Ortega to charge, field, and fling to first. With runners on the corners, senior Kai Roubideaux struck out swinging, but not before a wild pitch gave Herrera passage home.
Chapman, who'd stolen second during Roubideaux's at-bat, hustled ahead to third, then scored on a House groundout to Ortega on the first-base side of the mound. Having already scored three times himself, freshman Lawrence Toledo then singled up the middle and took second when the opposing 5A Bobcats' outfielder bungled the bounce. Attempting to steal third shortly thereafter, he would be called out when batter Jaden Maes was called for interfering with the catcher's attempted throw, but the damage was done.
Roubideaux, who'd started on the mound for Bert Miller but was pulled after BHS' first four batters reached (with two scoring), was quickly re-summoned to the mound with a chance for a save. But after fanning Ortega, leadoff hitter Jeron Gunn singled, took second on a wild pitch, and third on a balk with Justin Seitzinger batting.
Seitzinger walked, bringing Jaime Rios - who'd doubled off Roubideaux in the first - into the box. Having also singled in the guests' fifth off Kruz Pardo, near the end of an outstanding spell relieving Roubideaux, and doubled off Joe Herrera to plate two and key Bloomfield's seven-run sixth, the sophomore was indeed the last hitter any of Ignacio's arms would have wanted to face.
But after Gunn apparently scored on a delayed double-steal, only to be sent back to third when Seitzinger was called out for interfering with the throw back to Nate Herrera, it was as though someone had yanked the plug and killed the power. Rios (3-5, R, 3 RBI) struck out looking at the ball, abruptly concluding the action.
"Every game we've had this year has come down right to the last inning," said a relieved Miller. "Two extra-inning games, that 2-1 game. The four games we've lost, we've lost by five runs! I mean, we've just been on the short end all year and finally we've got one our way! Hopefully that's the start of something."
"We were going to come out with this 'W,'" Nate Herrera stated. "I mean, trying all these games, and having our heads down, it's great to see some smiles on some kids' faces! That's all you can ask for when you come out and play baseball!"
Having offset Bloomfield's initial two runs by bringing both Herreras around in the bottom of the first, IHS then began building what appeared to be an insurmountable advantage. The 2A 'Cats scratched together four runs in the bottom of the second, with Pardo cracking a key two-RBI single after senior Trace Lovelace beat out a bunt. Manning first with Rios (ND; 3 IP, 8 R, 3 BB, 5 K) pitching, Ortega slipped and fell on the wet synthetic surface trying to field the ball, loading the bases with no out.
Seventh in Miller's order, Toledo (2-2, 2 BB, 3 R) then led off again in Ignacio's third, and scored via a Pardo groundout to Rios.
Lovelace, who'd beaten out a roller to second baseman Mikey Bohannon, stole second with Pardo (1-4, R, 4 RBI) up, advanced to third on the fielder's choice, then scored on a wild pitch to Joe Herrera, making the lead 8-2.
Toledo again led off in the home half of the fifth, drawing a walk from Ortega (L; 3 IP, 3 R, 2 BB, HB, 3 K) and then stealing second. He soon advanced to third when Pardo hit a one-out grounder to BHS shortstop Anthony Gonzales, who elected to attempt an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play and roll up both Maes, who'd walked prior to Lovelace fanning, and Pardo.
But Pardo reached first safely after Maes was forced at second, while Toledo dashed home to put Ignacio up by a seemingly-safe seven runs with Bloomfield having only one more guaranteed at-bat.
"Kruz was spectacular," Miller said. "On the hill, he pitched a clean five innings. Strikeouts, he had quite a few of them, and he also had a big, key hit."
"We had to be aggressive up at the plate, and that's what we did today," said Nate Herrera (1-3, 2 R). "I mean, we haven't been lately, so the coaches just took us out, talked to us and told us to just come out and swing!"
Despite recording just one third of an inning, walking one batter and surrendering two runs, House earned his first varsity win with Roubideaux (IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 K) getting the save. Working quickly to avoid the cold, Pardo picked up a no-decision despite dealing five innings of two-hit, no-run ball, and issued just three walks while whiffing eight, the last of which got him out of a bases-loaded jam in the Bloomfield fifth.
"They're just as good as us, they're a JV, but just as good, and we came out the better team today," Herrera said. "It was just a matter of, we knew what we were doing out there on the field."
"We had some hits, they had some errors and we took advantage," noted Miller. "Ran the bases way better than we've been, which was a big key for us."
Having split a home doubleheader with 5A Los Alamos the previous afternoon, Bloomfield JV dipped to 5-5 overall, while IHS improved to 2-4 before facing non-league 2A Meeker at noon Saturday, March 31, in Rangely. Miller's men will then square off against non-league 2A RHS at 3 p.m.
"We'll be without Roubideaux this weekend, so that will make it tough on the pitching end of it," Miller said. "But we'll figure it out; we've got a lot of arms, and that should be fun. I think the boys are ready."