26 May 19
GREELEY — Everyone understands that baseball is a roller-coaster game of ups and downs. But on Saturday afternoon against Alamosa, Resurrection Christian was bungee jumping off the Empire State Building.
The Cougars reached the extreme on each side of the spectrum, both scoring and surrendering seven runs in a single inning. But the result was an 18-7 victory over the Mean Moose, giving RCS its first-ever berth in the Final 4 of the the 3A state baseball tournament.
Emotionally, the Cougars experienced just about everything a team could in a baseball game — extreme confidence, serious doubt and, ultimately, triumph.
“We just had to stay positive, we know we’re a good team,” said Sawyer Shepherd, who spearheaded the offense with two home runs and five RBIs. “When they responded to us putting up seven in the first inning, we just had to stay positive to them coming back. It got us down a little bit, but we just had to stay up and come back from it.”
No, Shepherd didn’t misspeak. The Cougars sent 11 batters to the plate in the top half of the first and scored seven runs. The junior’s three-run no-doubter to left-center field put his team up three after only four batters. The Cougars took advantage of two errors and a balk to bring home four more in the frame.
The 15-minute barrage of offense seemingly ensured a quick demise for the Mean Moose, fresh off an 11-inning victory over Colorado Academy in the morning to advance to this spot.
But just when the Cougars added another in the second to make it 8-0, the momentum shifted drastically. In the bottom of the second, Alamosa benefited from a walk, a couple singles and a hit batsman to put pressure on pitcher Zach Parrish. And though he almost got out of it after limiting some damage, he couldn’t escape the bat of Ben Wuckert, Alamosa’s designated hitter who lifted a three-run shot over the left-field wall to account for the fifth, sixth and seventh runs of the inning.
In an instant, a game which looked in danger of an early 10-run rule became a one-run game. The lifeless Alamosa dugout sucked all the energy out of RCS as its energy level sunk lower than it was in Friday’s 15-5 defeat. But because of that defeat yesterday, the Cougars knew only one response was acceptable.
Get up, stay up and go get it. Cooper Strong came in to close out the troublesome inning, and that ended all of Alamosa’s offense for the day. He pitched 4.1 innings of scoreless baseball in relief, allowing four hits while striking out seven.
“It was definitely hard, because when a team builds up that momentum with seven runs in one inning, it’s kind of hard to stop it,” Strong said. “But it was nice to come in with two outs, get that one last out and get us onto the bats.”
It’s exactly what he and the Cougars did as they climbed out of the trench still clinging to a one-run lead, and Strong’s bat sparked the offense again in the fourth. He plated two runs with a double before coming around to score on Jared Whitaker’s single. Once it got rolling again, there was no slowing down the Cougars’ offense.
They scored 10 consecutive runs, including another seven-run frame in the sixth, aptly capped by Shepherd’s second dinger of the game to nearly the identical spot.
“It just gets all our bats going,” he said. “Whenever we start seeing them, it’s contagious. It was pretty fun and it kept us all up throughout the game. We knew we were gonna beat them after the (second home run).”
Though the eight-run lead ultimately proved to be enough to win the game after the second inning, the Cougars’ response was necessary for their confidence moving into the final weekend.
“We’ve just gotta play with emotion and handle all parts of the game on offense and defense,” coach Ernie Romero said. “We kind of got ourselves like, ‘Here we go again,’ but they battled back and did a good job.”
What’s next for the Cougars, oddly enough, is plenty of what they’ve seen this season. They will be joined by fellow Patriot League teams University and Eaton in the finals. They knocked off Eaton on Friday before losing to Lutheran, who accounts for the fourth team playing next weekend. The Cougars will face top-seeded University on Friday, May 31.
Though they might know their opponents better than you’d expect in the playoffs, Shepherd and the rest of the Cougars understand the stage will be different.
“It’s our first time being top four in baseball, so that’s an awesome experience,” Shepherd said. “We’ve just gotta act live we’ve been there, though.”
Of course, knowing what they’re capable of on offense after the 18-run outing could make that easier.
“Knowing that we can do it and it’s not just, ‘Oh they were a fluke,” Strong said. “We’ve done it before and we can do it again. It’s definitely gonna be fun next weekend.”
Colin Barnard: email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_
Cougars 18, Mean Moose 7
At University High School
Resurrection Christian 710 307 x — 18 13 1
Alamosa 070 000 x — 7 9 1
W — Parrish. L — Duarte
Resurrection Christian hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Whitaker 5-1-2-2, Cook 5-1-1-1, Iwanicki 3-3-1-1, Shepherd 5-2-3-5, Parrish 3-2-2-0, Schrotenboer 0-3-0-0, Ruby 1-1-0-1, Strong 1-1-1-3, Wheeler 4-2-2-1, Romero 0-2-0-0. 2B — Whitaker. 3B — Parrish. HR — Shepherd 2. SB — Cook.
Resurrection Christian pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Parrish 1.2-5-7-7-3-2, Strong 4.1-4-0-0-1-7.