Rifle It took two Soroco High School seniors, a little trickery, some massive hits and a dash of solid pitching to help the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team overcome a bevy of ugly errors and hungry underdog Battle Mountain on Saturday in a doubleheader in Rifle.
The Sailors won both games - which were moved to Rifle from Craig because of bad weather - beating the Huskies, 7-6 and 11-0.
"We knew we needed these games," said Ryan Tibbetts, a Soroco senior playing for Steamboat. "Now, we have a chance to go to the playoffs."
The second game was a rout ended via run-rule in the fifth inning. It was hard to match the late-inning excitement of the first game.
Tibbetts knocked an RBI single into left field to send Steamboat's Ryan Hall around from second base to break an extra-inning tie and score the winning run.
That came after another Soroco senior, Matt Watwood, pitched six strong innings and knocked in two runs of his own.
After giving up two in the top of the second inning, Steamboat kept the bases clear. Catcher Brandon Clark picked a runner off stealing second in the third, then Tibbetts tagged a runner out to help Watwood out of a two on, no out jam.
Tibbetts, playing shortstop, kept the ball after a meeting at the mound, then, as his prey took a few steps off second base, tagged out Battle Mountain's lead runner. The move was so sly, Tibbetts had to yell and wave the ball to get the umpire's attention to get him to actually signal the runner out.
"We call him 'Magic Matt' because he is always doing magic (tricks)," Tibbetts said about Watwood. "So, he was able to sneak the ball into my glove with some slight of hand.
"I think that's the first time I've ever seen one of those actually work."
Steamboat got plenty of good hits to match the defense. Watwood scored two with a double in the bottom of the fifth, then Alan Capistron blasted a homer over the right field wall to score two more in the sixth.
Finally, Hondo Anderson doubled and scored in the bottom of the seventh.
All those big hits were only enough to keep up with a slew of fielding errors.
A pair of infielders collided in the top of the six while trying to field an easy two-out pop fly. That error cost one run. Two more two-out errors in the top of the seventh helped erase the 5-3 lead Capistron's home run had built.
"You get frustrated, but you couldn't show it," Watwood said. "We had to keep the team up. We had to work through it."
Anderson's run helped send the game to extra innings, and Tibbetts' two-out, two-on single ended it.
"It was great for our team to win that game," Watwood said. "We really needed that one, and we came through in the clutch."
The second game didn't contain nearly the drama of the first.
Capistron added three more RBIs and scored three runs as the Sailors got hot from the plate. Tibbetts was the only second-game player not to score a run, but even he contributed by belting in two more runs.
"These boys can hit the ball," Steamboat coach Dave Roy said. "Unfortunately, that didn't show in the first game, but we got it done in the second game. We just kept pecking away and getting guys in scoring position, and we really got some key hits."
Battle Mountain has struggled mightily this year in the league and seemed to be an easy target for a Sailors squad with its eyes set on the playoffs. But after the game, Steamboat was just happy to come away with a pair of victories.
The day doesn't ensure the squad, now 7-7 in the league, will make the postseason, but losing a game might have doomed its hopes.
"Now it's up to the baseball gods," Roy said about the playoffs. "We are on the brink.
"This is the best team the Sailors have had in the 10 years we have had a program. I'm happy to have been a part of it."