AURORA | The Smoky Hill baseball team has had practice in close games this season and executed to perfection when crunch time came Saturday afternoon.
Trailing visiting Arapahoe by a run, the Buffaloes rallied for two runs without making an out on their way to a 3-2 Centennial League walk-off win at Kevin Wolitzky Field to gain a split in the season series with the Warriors.
Junior Gavin McKown’s outstanding at-bat with the bases loaded ended with a lined shot that brought home Isaiah Chavez-Seppeldt with the run that made a winner of senior starting pitcher Joe McDermott, who pitched a complete-game, six-hitter to help Smoky Hill snap a four-game losing streak. (Photo gallery from the game, here).
“I tell the guys all the time, ‘trust in what we’re saying, trust what we’re doing,’” said coach Eric Askew, whose Buffaloes moved to 2-3 in one-run games this season and improved to 4-9 overall and 1-3 in Centennial League play.
“That rally right there was a definition of trusting and believing,” he added. “Having long at-bats, taking pitches away from a pitcher and doing some things. Putting the ball in play, getting guys on base and moving them over. …It was just executing for those guys.”
McDermott kept Arapahoe (4-8, 2-2) — which won the first meeting between the team’s 5-4 on Tuesday — off the scoreboard until the final two innings, when the Warriors scratched across one run in each frame to take the lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
The right-hander struck out seven hitters and scattered six hits to improve to 2-1.
“From the start I had my change-up working,” McDermott said. “They got a few hits off of me, but my mentality is, next hitter and stay in the ballgame.”
Smoky Hill would send five players to the plate in the winning rally, which gave with McDermott’s double down the left-field line.
Chavez-Seppeldt moved McDermott — who represented the tying run — to third with an opposite field single and stole second, prompting a pitching change. Arapahoe chose to intentionally walk Jacob Heavers to load the bases.
The Warriors’ strategy almost worked as senior Aaron Elgersma grounder to the Arapahoe first baseman could have been a force out at home plate, but the throw was wild, allowing the tying run to score.
McKown fought up multiple pitches and worked the count to 3-2 before he lined a ball in the shortstop hole that didn’t make it out of the infield, but allowed Chavez-Seppeldt to score to end the game.
“We’re getting used to the intensity (of close games) for sure,” McDermott said. “We’ve had some up and downs at the end. We’ve had people strike out at the end, we’ve had two walk-offs. So you have to be ready for the situation and you have to be ready for the challenge.”
Smoky Hill is back in action with a home game against Mullen on April 19.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
SMOKY HILL 3, ARAPAHOE 2
Score by innings:
Arapahoe 000 001 1 — 2
Smoky Hill 001 000 2 — 3
WP — Smoky Hill: Joe McDermott (7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). LP — Arapahoe: Joel Cackowski (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K). Smoky Hill hitting: Julian Garza 2-2, 2B; Gavin McKown 1-4, 2 RBI; Joe McDermott 1-2, 2B, run; Isaiah Chavez-Seppelt 1-2, run; Aaron Elgersma 1-3, run; Jordan Flanders 1-4, RBI