It wasn’t as though Duke Baker was out for blood.
But with his Bobcats quickly building a 9-1 first-inning lead – and still batting – on Trinidad during the second game of a home doubleheader on Saturday, Ignacio’s head coach wanted to leave nothing to chance. Especially after seeing a seemingly-safe 5-1 advantage in the opening contest erode into nothing, denying IHS a shot at sweeping a two-game set from a postseason-district opponent.
“It’s still not enough,” he said into the scorer’s box at IHS Field, after freshman Stoney White Thunder singled home both junior Devante Montoya and senior Eppie Quintana. Phillip Quintana then reached via an error by Miner shortstop Anthony Sandoval, ending THS starting pitcher Dario Vezzani’s day after 13 hitters and only two-thirds of a completed inning.
Keeping the pressure on, freshman Ambrose Valdez greeted former center fielder Jace Rogers with a single to left field, bringing in White Thunder from third base and the junior Quintana from second. Senior Dylan McCaw then smacked a grounder Sandoval couldn’t convert into an out, advancing Valdez to third.
Rogers managed to get Elliott Hendren to pop up to Sandoval, but sufficient damage had been done in the form of an 11-run frame – putting the ’Cats (7-6 overall, 3-1 2A/1A San Juan Basin) on course for a five-inning, 14-4 conquest.
“We played great ball,” Baker said. “We came out, hit the ball all the way around; one through nine, we put the ball in play and that’s all I ask. And our defense was stellar.”
Stellar enough to even outshine the season-high offensive explosion, at least for one inning, which the boss would like to see recreated Saturday against visiting Sargent (5-5, 4-4 2A Southern Peaks).
Facing Rogers to lead off the THS second, Phillip Quintana (W, CG; 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) induced a high chopper back to the mound. Somehow able to leap, snatch the ball overhead with his bare pitching hand and land on the backside of the hill without wracking an ankle, Quintana then zipped his throw to White Thunder for the first out.
Miner Jayson Guzzo cracked a hard grounder at second baseman Sonny Flores, who made a highlight-reel pick on a sharp short-hop and threw on target to White Thunder. Joey Just, the surprise winning pitcher in Game 1, then came up, but his grounder to Flores was handled with ease – giving Quintana a swift 1-2-3 inning. IHS then tacked on two more runs – via a Montoya triple plating Zane Olguin, who’d doubled, and a White Thunder groundout scoring Montoya – in the home half.
“That momentum kept us going the entire game,” Quintana said. “After that inning we were all just wanting to go. Moving forward, this win was big for us. Now we’ve got Sargent, so we hope this carries us.”
Montoya (2-4, 4 R, 3 RBI) started Game 2 by reaching via an infield error. Montoya then ended Ignacio’s day in the fourth inning by bashing a two-out, opposite-field fly off right fielder Tanner Rusk’s glove and legging out a score via a four-base error.
“Unreal … just so quick, and he does his job,” Baker said. “Anywhere we put him, he knows what he’s got to do and picks his teammates up.”
White Thunder ended up 1-for-2 with a walk, two runs and three RBIs. Valdez finished 2-3 with three RBIs. Phillip Quintana ripped a ground-rule double, reached via error and finished 1-3 with two runs and one batted in. Aboard via a two-base error on a dropped fly in left, plus an intentional walk and conventional base-on-balls, Eppie Quintana went 0-2 with two runs. Olguin ended up 2-2 with a walk and two runs.
Sophomore Brett Kendall (0-1, FC, 2 BB) scored three runs in defeat for Trinidad (7-9, 4-2 SPL), and the freshman Sandoval (2-3) singled twice, reached via error and tallied three RBIs.
In Game 1, Eppie Quintana (L; 6.2 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) froze Kendall with a called third strike for the second out in the visitors’ seventh, but then became a casualty of CHSAA’s pitch-count rules and was pulled in favor of Montoya with Miner Gabe Sintas aboard at first.
Sintas then stole second and advanced to third via a wild pitch to Sandoval, who’d draw a walk. With the score tied at 5, Sandoval took second via a wild delivery to Kaleb Valdez – giving THS two runners in scoring position. Valdez (1-4) then lifted a playable ball into center, but Ignacio inexplicably spilled a casual basket-catch and both Miners alertly hustled around to put THS up 7-5.
Montoya (0.1 IP, R, BB, K) wasted no time regrouping and fanned Rogers for a bittersweet third out. IHS responded with Phillip Quintana scoring via pinch-hitter Gabe Archuleta’s one-out ground, but fell short.
Montoya tripled and doubled in defeat, and ended up 2-for-4 with two runs. Eppie Quintana crushed two doubles, hit a sacrifice fly (scoring Montoya), and was also intentionally walked once in going 2-2 with a run and two RBIs. Ambrose Valdez went 1-4 with a double plus an RBI-groundout. White Thunder went 1-4 with a run.
Phillip Quintana, however, was indefensible. Having doubled his first time up, he then hammered a ground-rule double to right-center and also singled twice off Just (W, CG; 7 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 4 ER, BB, 4 K) to finish 4-for-4 with two runs scored.
Kendall went 2-4 with two runs, and Sandoval 1-2 with a double, sacrifice fly, two runs and one RBI. Rogers ended up 1-4 with a run and a two-RBI double keying Trinidad’s balance-altering four-run sixth. Just went 1-3 with an RBI-groundout.
“We definitely should have had those guys,” Ambrose Valdez said. “But (the IHS coaches) definitely got on our butts, and we started picking it up in the second game.”
“(Baker) told us not to dwell on anything,” Phillip Quintana said. “Just move on; it’s a new day, another game of baseball. No one wanted to lose again, so we were all playing harder.”
The Durango High School baseball team also had a bounce-back game on Tuesday. After losing two games to Grand Junction High School on Saturday, the Demons erupted for 17 runs against the Pagosa Springs Pirates to score a 17-5 mercy-rule win after five innings. Pagosa scored the first run, but DHS responded with 10 in the top of the second and never looked back.
AJ Folk hit a triple, scored twice and drove in five runs for the Demons. JJ Hoerl and Kameron Lucero both had three RBIs in the game while Liam Southerland, Tanner Coddington and Brady Hansen scored three runs each. Ten Demons either scored or had an RBI in the game. Pitcher Chance Costa picked up the win.
DHS (9-8 overall, 1-3 4A/5A Southwestern) will next host Montrose (7-9, 1-3) for a pair of league games at 4 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday.
– Cody Olivas contributed to this report.