Steamboat baseball splits only home doubleheader with Summit
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Having a baseball game at home is not a given when you play for Steamboat Springs High School.
The plan was to originally host a doubleheader against Glenwood Springs on Saturday, May 11, but the Sailors couldn’t get the field.
Being in the mountains means most games are played in places that don’t have heavy snowfall. And if the Sailors get lucky, they get one home game a year at the very end of the season.
“The kids love to play for the home crowd,” Steamboat head coach Rusty McRight said. “The season doesn’t define who you are as an individual or as a player. You take any adversity that you have in life, and you always learn from it and strive to do good.”
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The Sailors went into the doubleheader against the Summit Tigers with a 5-9 record and no playoff berth in sight. The Tigers, who were 6-15, similarly had a nothing-to-lose mentality.
And yet, the bleachers were packed and, every once in a while, a wind gust carried the smell of hot dogs. Fans checked the Gamechanger apps on their phones to check the score since the scoreboard wasn’t being used. Some high school spectators asked questions about the game and its strategy or how to cheer properly.
But even more marveling than the sport itself was the 16-15 walk-off victory the Sailors captured in Game 1.
“I said it was up to them,” McRight said. “If they wanted it, it was there for them to achieve, and they did it.”
The game started at 2 p.m. but didn’t end until just before 6 p.m., when Sailors sophomore Austin Ibarra smacked a double out to centerfield to bring home freshman Ben Bogan, who had stolen second, for the game-winning run.
“I was just thinking trust what I practice every day, and if I do that, I’ll be fine,” Ibarra said.
The run sealed a memorable game for Bogan, who knocked his first varsity home run over the fence at the bottom of the fourth inning. He’s only had one additional home run this season on the junior varsity squad.
Bogan, like many others, finished with multiple hits in the first game. He went 3 for 5 at bat with four RBIs. Ibarra finished going 3 for 4 at bat with one RBI. Sloppy field play by the Tigers helped the Sailors capture 10 stolen bases. Junior Maxim Fullerton led that group with three.
The Sailors had a less productive second game at bat, falling to the Tigers, 7-3.
Ibarra scored the opening run for the Sailors on a ground out to center, bringing home junior Ethen Johnson from second in the second inning. But the Tigers loaded the bases at the bottom of the fourth.
Tigers sophomore Marcus Popoff singled to get on base. Senior Andrew Reynolds drew a walk, then freshman KJ Slaugh reached base on a tricky bunt. Sophomore Jesus Nunez’s single brought home the first score to tie it up 1-1, then sophomore Zach Misch reached first on an error to move the Tigers ahead 2-1. The Tigers went on to score two more runs on sacrifice flies and a single before concluding the inning with a 5-1 lead.
Steamboat sophomore Colter Gansmann brought home two runners on base at the top of the fifth on a ground ball to right field. The Tigers added its final score in the bottom of the fifth on a ground out by Slaugh and an error by Bogan at third base, enabling Nunez to move from second and push the final runner to home.
The Sailors finished their season with a 6-10 record while the Tigers finished at 7-16. Heading into the offseason, the Sailors hope to hone their skills during the summer baseball season before returning to play next spring.
“We faced a lot of adversity all year,” Ibarra said. “Kind of messing with ourselves in the field, and that’s the only reason we were losing games. Focus is the biggest key to winning. We can practice all we want, but if we don’t focus in the game, we don’t do what we know how to do.”
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