IGNACIO—Five errors in the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday afternoon cost the Vikings their one-run advantage, and as some would say, ultimately a potential road win against a non-league opponent currently playing its best baseball of the spring.
Which was probably why Center agreed to take on Ignacio—replacing Dolores, which canceled the scheduled neutral-site meeting in Pagosa Springs due to unfortunate circumstances—on short notice [local media covering the Bobcats, slated for an off-day and after-school practice, were informed just before 9:00 a.m.] at all.
“They came to our tournament this summer, and we played them last year. Just over the years, when we’ve played Ignacio they’ve been a tough team, so I think that it’s a good measurement,” said CHS head coach Stefan Welsh. “The kids here are tough, so I was telling my guys before the game, ‘I know what this Ignacio team is like, you guys know what they’re like too. So let’s go see how we’ve improved.’”
Enough so that five mistakes in one frame didn’t dictate how the contest would conclude.
And had it not been for IHS backup second baseman Ian Weinreich’s running stab of an Esteban Perez grounder far to his left, and perfect throw to first baseman Marcus Chapman, the visitors could very well have forced extra innings; with two out, Center had Marcus Smith on third and Kevin Miramontes—representing the tying run in a 7-5 contest—at second.
“Except for the bad fifth inning, it was really probably one of our best games that we’ve played,” Welsh said. “Our pitchers threw a lot of strikes and our defense really didn’t look too bad…until, you know, that fifth….”
The Vikings (6-11, 4-4 2A Southern Peaks) started well on IHS Field’s artificial surface, drawing four first-inning walks against Zach Weinreich (ND; 2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 5 K) with two beneficiaries—Nabor Quintana and Cristian Guaderrama—coming home on a bases-loaded single by Smith.
Highlighted by an RBI-double by starting second baseman Cole McCaw (3-4, 2 R, RBI), Ignacio countered with three in the home half before Center’s Patrick Mortensen (ND; 3 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) singled and scored in the guests’ third on IHS catcher Timmy Plehinger-Williams’ errant pick-off throw to third base.
Quintana crossed with the go-ahead run in the top of the fourth. After walking with one out, he then stole second and then came around on a Guaderrama single to right off Bobcat reliever Dalton Labarthe (W; 4.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, ER, 3 BB, 3 K). Ignacio (9-8, 4-2 2A/1A San Juan Basin) went down in order in the bottom half, but managed to scratch out three runs in the fractured fifth.
Plehinger-Williams led off with a single off Guaderrama (L; 3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) and Zach Weinreich reached on a fielder’s-choice roller to short after Plehinger-Williams—who scored on the play—had swiped second and advanced to third on an off-target throw by Mortensen.
A Guaderrama fielding error near the mound allowed Joe Herrera to reach and moved Weinreich (1-4, R, 2 RBI) to second, and Trace Lovelace then bounced into a fielder’s-choice to short, pushing Weinreich up to third and allowing him to score when Robbie Cortez—who forced out Herrera—threw off-line of Smith at first.
Lovelace (2-4, 2B, R) would score three batters later when Quintana muffed Rendon Mestas’ fly to center, and IHS would tack on one more run—McCaw, via a one-out Zach Weinreich single—in the bottom of the sixth.
But in the top of the seventh CHS made things interesting, starting with Guaderrama reaching on an error by Chapman and taking second on a wild pitch dealt to Mortensen. Mortensen then bounced out to short, but Guaderrama (1-3, BB, 2 R, RBI) hustled into third and would score on a subsequent single by Smith (2-4, 3 RBI).
Ismael Palacios (0-2, 2 BB) then grounded out unassisted to a recomposed Chapman, allowing Smith to reach third after stealing second. Miramontes (0-1, 3 BB) then walked and stole second unchallenged, but the younger Weinreich then made about the only defensive play either team would realistically want to remember.
“But honestly, it’s encouraging going into the end of the season; we’ll be playing in our district tournament soon and I think that we’re on the up-and-up right now,” said Welsh. “Seeing some improvement for sure.”
Up next for Center will be a 4:00 p.m. road game Thursday at Buena Vista (10-6, 5-3 3A Tri-Peaks West), then a SPL doubleheader at home the next day versus Del Norte beginning at 10 a.m.
Caption: Center’s Robbie Cortez (1) smacks a second-inning infield single during Tuesday’s non-league game at Ignacio. The Vikings recorded just five total hits, but manufactured five runs in a two-run road loss. Photo by Joel Priest