Watching Wolverine baseball vying for this season’s Intermountain League title, plays like senior third baseman Austin Twedt’s successful, admittedly “all arm” cross-diamond throw of a grounder he had to drop to his knees to find, plus an over-the-shoulder catch of a foul pop-up while running away from home plate were what head coach Bert Miller wanted to see in Tuesday’s home doubleheader versus Montezuma-Cortez.
Seeing senior shortstop/pitcher Isaac Ross and junior catcher Nic Twedt collide while both staring skyward in pursuit of a pop-up along the third-base line, and the ball popping out of Twedt’s mitt when he face-planted into the ground, allowing Panther Evan LaMunyon to reach first via an error?
Not so much.
Ross not only stayed in the game but, like his post-collision effort in Pagosa Springs, returned to the mound and completed his start – and Bayfield’s two-game season sweep of M-CHS – by getting LaMunyon to pop up to shortstop Lance Mazur two innings later.
“Lets everyone else know what we’re about,” Mazur said, reflecting upon his teammates’ determination and putting it in an IML context. “Getting this really helped us in league and … helps set us up for regionals – puts us in a better spot for when it really matters.”
“It was a complete team effort,” Miller said. “I mean, Cortez played really tough, but we came out and got some very timely hits. Noah Chamblee, obviously, swung the bat well, and Caden Wood’s still on fire. I mean, everybody contributed, and that’s awesome.”
Helped by Chamblee’s solo homer to left, leading off the third inning of Game 2, off Panther Miles Frost, BHS (14-4, 4-0 IML) gave Ross a 4-0 lead to protect going into the top of the fourth. And after 10 of their first 11 batters had been retired, M-CHS (6-7, 0-2) showed life when catcher Braden Hallman reached base on a fielding error by second baseman Jackson Queen.
Hallman’s courtesy runner, Colby McMillian, scored from second when Mazur threw high over first baseman Chamblee in an attempt to throw out the hitter, Frost (L; 4 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, BB, HB, 3 K).
Bayfield got the run back in the home half of the inning when Chamblee (2-2, 2 BB, R, 2 RBI) doubled home Austin Twedt.
After Montezuma-Cortez’s Bobby Likes singled home Lyle Carver in the guests’ fifth, the Wolverines, sparked by pinch-hitter Elyas Coleman’s lead double off Panther reliever Jake Blackmer (2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 BB), all but put the twin bill in the history book with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Able to reach once via error, Ross went 0-4 offensively, but allowed just three hits and one earned run in the 7-2 victory. Ross totaled 12 strikeouts, with Blackmer and Gabe Crowley each fanning thrice, while issuing only two bases-on-balls, both to Carver.
Picking up right where he left off in a 13-6 Game 1 triumph, Wood (3-4, 2 2B, 3B, 3 R, 2 RBIs in Game 1) supported Ross by going 2-4 with a double and two runs scored in the second game. Nic Twedt went 3-4 with a double and an RBI. Designated hitter Ethan Candelaria was 2-3 and reached via error, and Austin Twedt was 1-3 with a fielder’s choice plus a walk.
“I think, honestly, we can hit anything in our league,” Wood said. “We can do that to every team if we really wanted to … but we’ve got to … make every day our day.”
M-CHS’ players appeared to have had that idea too in Game 1, breaking out for two quick first-inning runs – LaMunyon, via a Hallman RBI-single, and Blackmer, via a Frost RBI-single – against Queen (W; 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K).
Bayfield managed to counter with Nic Twedt scoring via a Ross single off LaMunyon (L; 4 IP, 14 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 2 BB, HB, 3 K), then surged ahead with a five-run second highlighted by Wood’s lead double, an Austin Twedt RBI-single, a Ross RBI-triple, and a Chamblee RBI-double.
After each team scratched out one third-inning run, the Panthers rallied back to 7-5 with two tallies in the top of the fourth. Blackmer (2-3, BB, 3 R, RBI) cracked a two-out RBI-double, scoring Likes for the second said run, but Queen escaped further damage when Austin Twedt retired Hallman (3-4, 2B, 2 RBI) with a strong toss to Chamblee.
Helped by a one-out Ross triple, and later a 2-RBI Wood triple, the Wolverines re-expanded their advantage with four runs in the bottom of the fourth, then chased LaMunyon off the hill with two more runs in the home half of the fifth. Senior Trinidad ‘L.T.’ McDonnell (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K) relieved and managed to strand Ross at third by striking out Chamblee, Mazur and Wood in succession, but M-CHS managed just one run during Mazur’s two relief innings.
Frost ended up 2-3 with a double and an RBI in Game 1. LaMunyon went 1-4 atop the order, but the visitors’ 5-9 sticks went a combined 0-for-16, with just two individuals (J.T. Carver and Likes) reaching base once via errors (both Panthers did manage to score), and two others (Lyle Carver and sixth-inning pinch-hitter Samson Lein) drawing walks.
With two singles also to his name, Ross went 4-4 in Game 1 with two runs and three batted in. Nic Twedt was 2-3 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and three runs scored. Queen was 1-3 with an RBI-single and a walk, while Austin Twedt ended up 1-4 with a sacrifice bunt, two runs and two RBIs. Coleman went 1-4 with an RBI-single, and Andy Monger was 1-3 with an RBI-single but had to exit Game 2 early after being plunked on the arm by a Frost delivery.
Up next, Bayfield will continue Intermountain work Saturday when Centauri comes to town for a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m. Though just 1-3 in league, the Falcons will still arrive on the plus side of .500 at 10-7 overall, following a 12-2, 22-1 domination of struggling 2A Sanford (now 3-9) last Saturday in La Jara. And their one IML win to date came in unbelievable fashion – a 17-run fifth, stealing CHS a sudden 25-15 mercy-rule outcome – against perennial contender Alamosa.
Now 3-1 in league, the Mean Moose slipped to 7-6 overall Tuesday after losing 13-12 at nonleague 3A La Junta.
“These were the two biggest (games) up to this point,” Miller said, summarizing Bayfield’s sweep of M-CHS, “but Saturday’s are even bigger; we have to win them. I haven’t seen Centauri play this year, but I understand they’ve got one really good pitcher … and they beat Alamosa! We can’t stand to overlook them.”
“We’ve got to put in work if we want to be the best,” agreed Wood, “and that’s what we’re going to do.”