Remembering to pack the most important souvenir of all - a renewed sense of purpose - with them for the trip home after an underwhelming four days' play in Phoenix, the Bayfield Wolverines proudly presented it to all Tuesday afternoon in Pagosa Springs.
"We just didn't play very well," senior outfielder/pitcher Michael Gettman said, summarizing Spring Break losses in Arizona to two Phoenix schools, one from California and one from Idaho, by a combined 54-15 margin at the 2018 Greenway Festival. Getman was recharging midway through BHS' Intermountain League-opening doubleheader at Strohecker Field.
"It was tough competition down there," agreed junior shortstop/pitcher Hub Brandon, who started Game 2 against PSHS on the mound. "Showed us all the stuff we need to work on. Baserunning was one key thing, which we still need work on, and helped us figure out what we need to do, to come back in league."
"We knew there would be a big difference in our practice Monday; we kind of adjusted what we had the kids look at, knowing we were going to see a little bit less than what we saw in Phoenix," head coach Danny Petrie said. "And it took them a little bit to get warmed up to it, but once they did...the bats were hot!"
Good thing too; with windy conditions chilling the Archuleta County temperature down from the high-50s and virtually refrigerating the venue's dugouts, the basepaths were the best place to at least think Arizona-warm.
Highlighted by Brandon's first-ever high school homer, a three-run shot during a 17-run fifth inning, and stifling pitching from junior Hayden Farmer and reliever Max McGhehey, Bayfield bashed out a 19-2 five-inning mercy-rule win over Pagosa Springs to start the double-header.
"It was awesome," Brandon said of his blast, part of a 3-for-4 outing with three runs scored and five knocked in. "My teammates did a good job getting on base, so I was glad I could put the ball in play and hit it out!"
Brandon got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the third inning in Game 2 by inducing opposing starter Hunter Bailey to hit into an odd 1-2-3 double play. Bailey stopped running not even a third of the way to first base after tapping a hit to the hill, which Brandon quickly tossed back to catcher Alec Demko. The Wolverines were not to be caught in a 10-1 victory, stopped after six innings due to darkness.
"I'm real proud of the boys; they stayed aggressive," Petrie said. "Their attitude was much better, our pitching was better, and just aggressive overall. We'll work on that baserunning, and keep plugging along!"
Including a two-RBI single in the guests' fourth, Demko finished 2-for-3 batting with a walk in Game 2, scored twice and drove in three. Farmer, batting one spot ahead of Demko in the order, went 2-2 with two walks and scored four times. Starting at third base defensively, Ethan Morris went 2-4, scored three times and legged out a two-RBI triple in the third inning, resulting in Bailey's removal after only 2-1/3 completed innings.
BHS (5-4, 2-0 IML) led 3-1 after two innings, 6-1 after three, 8-1 after four, and 9-1 after five, with catcher Grant Aucoin's second-inning RBI-single, plating Keaton Laverty, preventing the shutout for PSHS (5-3, 0-2).
"Hit the ball well," said Brandon (W; 4 IP, 4 H, BB, 5 K), who went 1-3 with a run before Andrew Morgan (2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, K) relieved him after the Pirates quietly went in order ending the fourth inning. "Still a couple things we need to work on, but overall I think we played really well as a team. It was a good start for league play."
Demko went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two runs and as many RBI in Game 1, while first baseman Rhett Hoover went 2-2 with a double, two runs and three RBI. Farmer (W; 4 IP, H, 0 BB, 8 K) also scored twice and plated one while going 2-3 in his own support with a double, and Morris went 3-3 with three runs.
Up next, Bayfield will host Montezuma-Cortez for two games Saturday, April 7, beginning at 11 a.m.
"To finally be at home, it'll be great!" said Petrie. "We know they're going to be better than they were last year, so we're going to have a battle on our hands and we're going to go at it as one of those Phoenix teams."
"Everything that happened to us when we were in Phoenix, those four tough losses - a couple could have went the other way - we learned from it. And that helped us, for this (IML) season; that's why we went."