Down two and coming to bat in the seventh inning, Centennial High School found themselves facing an 0-4 start in South-Central League play.
A couple errors by the young Pueblo County defenders gave the Bulldogs life, followed by back-to-back squeeze plays that ultimately gave them an 8-4 lead.
Joey Solano came in during the fifth inning to pitch and finished off the job in the bottom of the inning to give Centennial the 8-4 win on Hobbs Field.
“The most exciting play in baseball I believe, everyone thinks it’s the home run, but to me and our kids, it’s the squeeze,” Centennial coach Joe Vigil said. “We just have to keep the pressure on the defense and execute and we were lucky enough to get the job done.”
Starting the game on the mound for Centennial was Seth Nunez as Vigil thought the sidearm-tosser could provide a change of pace for a good fastball hitting team in the Hornets.
The move worked as Pueblo County produced four runs, three less than its average of seven.
“We knew the game plan was to keep it low,” Nunez said. “A couple early mistakes, but my defense picked me up. Hats off to my defense. I have to give them all the credit, they were phenomenal behind me today.”
Last time the Bulldogs took the field, they lost in heartbreaking fashion when rival Central walked them off 11-10 after Centennial came back from down 7-0.
Once again, the Bulldogs found themselves behind, but the continued practice of battling back this season paid off with their six-run seventh inning.
“(Solano) is a transfer from East and I’ve been telling him all year that once he gets that call up to varsity, go prove everyone wrong," Nunez said. “A lot of people like to talk down on my boy Joey, but he came out and proved himself today.”
The win puts Centennial back to .500 at 8-8 and puts them at 1-3 in league. As for RPI rankings, the Bulldogs entered Tuesday ranked No. 42 and on the outside of the playoffs.
A win over the No. 16 ranked Hornets looks to be helpful toward Centennial’s case of making a run to the postseason.
“It shows what we work on at practice and the mindset we have talked about since day one,” Vigil said of the comeback win. “We were down a couple guys, too, two (starting pitchers). The guys that came in did well.”
The two squads will take the field once more this week when Centennial hosts East at 10 a.m. Saturday while Pueblo County (9-5, 2-2 S-CL) will be at South at 1 p.m. also on Saturday.
South 6, Central 2
All season the Wildcats have been able to hit well, but the combination of Hunter Fair and Brennan Gutierrez shut them down Saturday on Andenucio Field.
Central produced only two runs, while A.J. Cordvoa picked up three hits for South and Mario Ramirez applied the exclamation point with a two-run home run to center field in the third inning of the Colts’ 6-2 victory.
“It was a simple fastball outside,” Ramirez said. “I was looking away and then took it dead center which was pretty cool.”
South coach Gary Lown described how they slowly worked Ramirez, a sophomore, in to start the season so could adapt to the varsity level.
Getting the time to adjust to varsity pitching and get a little extra coaching seems to be working well for Ramirez, whose home run Tuesday marked his third of the season.
“It teaches you confidence,” Ramirez said of his slow introduction. “You have to have a small memory and that’s what we focus on throughout the whole game. Make an error, get over it and go get the next objective.”
Central had its chances to comeback in the game, especially in the sixth when it loaded the bases with two outs.
Nico Martin, the walk-off hero last Saturday against Centennial, grounded out to Cordova at second to end the Wildcats’ final threat.
“Hunter’s been good all year,” Lown said. “He doesn’t walk many guys, throws a good off-speed pitch and challenges them and really that’s the key to pitching is keeping guys off base, especially in this league because everyone hits the ball.
“Bacon (Gutierrez) was hurt last year and is just now starting to get his arm in shape. He’s a nice closer, he’s got good pop with a good changeup.”
After a disappointing mercy-rule loss to league leading Pueblo West on Saturday, South was excited to take down the next highest ranked team in the S-CL in Central.
The hope is momentum can propel the Colts forward and finally give them something to build off.
“You like to beat good teams and (Central) is one of the top two teams,” Lown said. “When you swing the bat and get decent pitching like them they’re hard to beat. It’s a real good victory for us, we beat a good team.”
Pueblo West 12, East 1
Pueblo West starting pitching Devin Neff didn’t need much run support as the senior allowed only two hits over his four innings of work against East.
Tyler Barth was the biggest run producer for Pueblo West with four RBI as eight of the nine starting hitters for the Cyclones picked up one hit.
Tyler Declusin went 3-for-4 while scoring three runs as well to stay as a top-five scorer in the S-CL.
Senior Dalton Davis came in to pitch in the bottom of the fifth and he gave up one hit, but struck out the other three Eagles batters to finish the inning.
Pueblo West (14-2, 4-0 S-CL) remains No. 1 in the RPI rankings and the CHSAAnow.com media/coach’s poll and will play Saturday at 10 a.m. at Central.
The Eagles (6-10, 1-3 S-CL) entered the day right outside the top-32 at No. 33 and will play Centennial on Saturday.
Chieftain sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44.