Intentionally walking Noah Chamblee not once but twice during the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader certainly wasn’t to the Bayfield fans’ liking, but nobody could fault Alamosa skipper Tony Kechter for doing so; the big sophomore Game 1 had hammered two doubles – including a bases-clearing bash to polish off a mercy-rule win – and driven in five runs.
But as Alamosa attempted to protect a shaky 9-6 sixth-inning lead, the visitors had no choice but to face their fear with zero outs and the bases loaded, no less.
Incredibly, Alamosa relief pitcher Evan Sowards – who’d already made five crucial catches in left field, including a headlong diving robbery of Lance Mazur’s third-inning liner – managed to keep a full-count fastball down and retire Chamblee swinging.
Sowards, and the Mean Moose as a team, wouldn’t be so fortunate again. Facing a similar full count, Austin Twedt, who’d slapped an opposite-field single to right his previous at-bat, creamed a no-doubt triple to left-center, plating table-setters Cade Carlson, Isaac Ross and Mazur, and re-electrifying the whole crew plus their supporters.
“We just kind of started off asleep. Couldn’t hit the ball in the gap, hit it straight to people,” recalled Twedt, whose fourth-inning bullet back at Alamosa starter Kade Jones (ND; 4.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, HB, K) was caught with such a chilling candor as to declare to the home team his four shutout innings – and Alamosa’s 6-0 lead at the time – weren’t a fluke, even with the No. 10 Wolverines having taken Game 1, 12 to 2, in a lightning-delayed five innings.
“And yeah, I had a bad check-swing the ball before,” Twedt continued, “and just figured I had to redeem myself!”
BHS head coach Bert Miller was thrilled to see Twedt come through in the clutch.
“He ain’t been struggling at the plate much lately, but he has had some defensive issues,” said Miller. “I don’t even know how to put it, but what an uplift that is for Austin to have a big hit like that. Obviously, the hit of the game.”
Teammates Caden Wood and Nic Twedt would follow with consecutive singles, and would both score along with Andy Monger and Carlson (a second time) before new pitcher Hayden Shawcroft managed to get, ironically, Austin Twedt (2-for-5, 3B, FC, 2 R, 4 RBI) to pop up to shortstop Tyler Duarte with bases again loaded.
Suddenly starting at a 14-9 deficit entering the seventh inning, Alamosa mounted one last counterstrike with designated hitter Dustin Curto (3-for-4, 2 R) cracking a leadoff double and Michael Madril reaching on a Ross error at short. Wood then managed to get Sowards (2-for-5, 2B, R), atop AHS’ order, to tap a demoralizing flare to Carlson at second, and Jones (2-for-5, R) to line out sharply to Mazur in left, but then promptly plunked Duarte (1-for-3, BB, 2B, R) and surrendered a single to Donovan Ramirez.
“We’ve always been able to hit the ball well, and we got back into that groove,” explained Sowards. “I think a lot of it was mentality; the first game we got really down and the second we brought our heads back up and started doing what we can do.”
“Putting the ball into play, barrel-of-the-bat and all that, and just having confidence in each other and ourselves…. As soon as we did that we started…raking the ball,” Ramirez (4-for-5, 2 R, 4 RBI) said.
With runners at the corners, Alamosa catcher Kasey Jones—representing the tying run—crushed a fly down the right-field line, but reserve Braxton Nistler, who’d initially pinch-hit for Dante Candelaria—who’d pinch-hit earlier for first reliever Devin Avery (ND; 0.2 IP, 4 H, ER, K)—then remained in the game in right as Monger moved to center for Wood, made a composed catch to clinch a 14-11 victory and complete an unbeaten run through the Intermountain League.
“We’re 8-and-0 now in league and that’s awesome,” said Carlson (1-4, BB, 3 R, RBI), one of BHS’ graduated seniors. “We won my sophomore year, then to just not have a year my junior year…to come back and win it feels surreal. Feels great.”
“We still fought, you know, but it’s just hard to overcome a six- and eight-run inning back-to-back,” Kechter said. “We jumped out on them early, had a better approach at the plate, but then we kind of got a little lax there in the middle innings and let ’em back into it. Just didn’t get that mental toughness back.”
“These kids are—I’ve told you—resilient! I’m 60 with a bad heart and they’re making it worse sometimes!” joked an exhausted Miller. “They never, ever quit. And the game’s a blur; we tied it up, then they came back and scored three, then we came back and scored eight! It’s amazing…means the world to this team.”
Helped by a double play ending the Alamosa sixth—Case Zimmerman zipped a liner to Austin Twedt at third, and Twedt then threw to Carlson, nabbing off second base a straying Shawcroft, who’d just belted a 2-RBI double—Wood earned the Game 2 win, working 4-2/3 innings and scattering seven hits while conceding six runs (four earned).
Mazur finished 2-4 with a double and a walk, scored twice and knocked in three. Ross was 3-4 with a triple and a walk and scored once, while Wood was 2-3 with a walk, run and RBI, and Chamblee 0-2 with the two intentional (and also one conventional) bases-on-balls and a run.
Striking out the side in both the third and fourth innings of Game 1, while retiring 13 Moose consecutively during one superb stretch, Mazur booked a complete-game win in the opener. He totaled nine Ks, walked just one batter and allowed just two hits—a first-inning Ramirez RBI-double, scoring Duarte, and a fifth-inning Madril single.
After Sowards (0-3, R) then lined out to Carlson, ending the top of the fifth, the teams were called off the field—right after Madril began the home half throwing ball one to Carlson—due to lightning reportedly less than five miles away. But when play resumed over an hour later, the Wolverines immediately went back to work against Zimmerman, replacing Madril.
Carlson would ultimately draw a walk, and Ross (1-2, 2 BB, 4 R) then beat out an infield single to second. Mazur (3-4, 2 RBI) then beat out a bases-loading bunt single when Zimmerman (ND; 0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, BB) fielded the ball but found nobody was covering first base.
Chamblee, who’d smacked a Ross-scoring sacrifice-fly to left his previous AB, then officially locked up the IML title—Bayfield needed just one win in two tries—booming a pitch into the right-center alley.
Ultimately indicative of how wild the day would become, however, was the fact that after Alamosa (8-6, 3-3 IML) broke out with two quick first-inning runs, BHS exploded for five in the bottom of the inning. Igniting the dynamite, Carlson launched a first-pitch solo homer to left off Duarte (L; 2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 5 ER, BB, HB, 4 K).
“I really had no feeling what he was going to throw. I just usually see first-pitch fastballs, I always hit the first pitch, and when I hit it…that was a huge momentum shift,” said Carlson, who just missed blasting a leadoff homer in Game 2. “The second that happened…we just kept getting base hits after that. It was awesome.”
“It was an energy adjustment,” Austin Twedt agreed. “The dugout was all up, pushing all of us to get more energy.”
“I was nervous; I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Nic Twedt. “Then that (homer) happened, the whole team just got super excited, and went rolling from there.”
Nic Twedt would later deck a bases-loaded double bringing in both Chamblee—who’d himself doubled—and Austin Twedt. BHS (13-2, 8-0) would then tally one run in the second inning and three in the third to tighten their grip on things.
“A home run to get us on our way,” said Miller, “Lance…tore the cover off the ball today, Noah…hits a bases-clearing double to make that game a run-rule…. We had lots of key hits—awesome job there.”
“They all produce when they’re asked to produce,” he continued. “We may have been a little flat coming into the second game; we were so excited winning the first one…we were IML champs!”
“I just think Bayfield came out more aggressive than we did. Like, they had the better mindset,” Ramirez said. “They’re a really great team, putting barrel to ball and all that stuff. And…we started to struggle, not making routine plays—not doing us.”
“It feels great,” said Nic Twedt (2-3, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI in Game 1; 2-3, BB, 2 R, RBI in Game 2). “We just hit well, and our energy was high the whole time. Second game we dropped our energy for a little bit, but we rebounded.”