Tigers topple Huskies for first win
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” It isn’t easy playing baseball in the High Country ” practices in the gym, massive road trips and usually some big-league beatings when you get there.
And so there was a profound sense of satisfaction when Summit freshman hurler Taylor Gillis fanned Battle Mountain’s John Simpson to end Tuesday’s game, an 18-11 Tigers’ victory.
“It’s tough. You’ve got to have a big heart,” Gillis said. “I know it sounds a little cheesy. It definitely challenges you.”
But the beautiful thing about baseball is that every team does get its day, and in a battle between two teams that have been snow-bound all year, the visiting Tigers got their first win of the season.
“It’s probably the best we could have, a great day,” Summit skipper Tom Kohler said. “We kind of came through. We had some good pitching, not too many errors. They had the bats going. We finally got them heated up.”
“It’s great. It’s so much fun,” Tigers senior center-fielder Josh Kroenig said. “This is my last baseball game, so it feels pretty good to have a win.”
And while the host Huskies didn’t get the Senior Day victory they wanted ” Battle Mountain was already in the win column with a 26-3 pasting of Lake County in March ” they played about as well as a team that’s had just a week of practice outdoors.
“I’m sure it was exciting for both (teams),” Huskies shortstop Jeremy Windham said. “It’s great just to be able to hang in a game, be in the bottom of the seventh and say you’ve got to score this many runs and try to do it.”
Windham brings up a good point. It’s rare for either the Tigers or Huskies to be in a game which lasts longer than the perfunctory five innings, after which both teams most of the time are down by 10 or more runs and the game is called.
Gillis, just a freshman, went the distance for the Tigers. While his E.R.A. won’t be pretty ” he did what a pitcher needs to do at this level, throw strikes and keep your team in the game. He had just one walk and nine strikeouts.
After Battle Mountain jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Summit answered with five runs in the second and six in the third.
“It was really nice,” Gillis said. “It gave me a rise in my spirits.”
Summit capitalized on Battle Mountain pitching’s general lack of command ” Huskies hurlers walked eight and hit six batters. But the Tigers also brought the lumber. In the third, Talon Roggasch ripped a two-run double. Kroenig followed with a two-run homer over the right field fence, the Tigers’ second home run of the season (Scott Rappleye).
“I was sitting back and waiting for it,” Kroenig said. “I wasn’t expecting to do much. It was outside. I just went with it and it went over. The win was great. The home run was just the icing on the cake.”
The Huskies, however, were game. They chipped away at Summit’s lead, closing, at one point, to 14-11. Windham drove Cameron Brown home with a single in the fourth. R.D. Cordova and Mike Jones both knocked in runs in the fifth.
Battle Mountain thought it got momentum to swing its way after pitcher Dustin Martin set down the Tigers 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth.
“We did have the momentum,” Huskies manager Jason Spannegel said. “I thought that was a real positive spot in the game for us. Dustin did a nice job coming in and throwing strikes for us. The defense made some plays. We were in a good spot there.”
Martin helped his cause with an RBI single in the sixth, but the Huskies stranded two runners to end the inning, and Summit closed the door with four runs in the seventh.
Meanwhile, Kohler had no doubts. He was going to let Gillis go the distance.
“Not at all. He was doing fine,” Kohler said. “Everyone was tired, but we owed it to him to leave him in. He had the game in hand.”
The Huskies honored their four seniors ” Windham, Daniel Rascon, Michael Hand and Meagan Houghton ” and their parents after the game.
“We have a really young team and I think it’s been good for them to get the playing time that they need, so they can improve more and more every year,” Windham said. Hopefully next year, they can get on the field early. I love it a lot. It’s so much fun.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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