Indians in 2A regional, but pushed back at least one day
(Editor’s Note: The 2A regionals in Pueblo have been pushed back at least one day, meaning Yuma now is scheduled to play Saturday instead of Friday. However, CHSAA is reporting that it might be postponed even further, as the full width of the Front Range continues to get hit by rain and snow. The article below has been updated to reflect that. One can follow updates at chssanow.com)
The Ratings Percentage Index definitely fell in favor of a Yuma High School team this time, in regards to the baseball Indians in this weekend’s Class 2A regionals.
The Tribe fell one spot out of the regional field last season, and the volleyball team last fall had an interesting set-up at state thanks to the RPI.
However, the Indians sitting as the 12th seed for regional sets up about as good as could be for the Tribe.
“Well, I like it,” coach Brady Nighswonger said Monday after CHSAA released the regional brackets. “Obviously, I am happy to just to be able to get in, not just for this year’s team but for future years, to get a taste for our young guys.”
That’s because most everybody will be back next season. Senior Jake Gordon had a heartbreaking end to his final high school campaign, injuring his knee in practice last week before the district tournament, leaving designated hitter David Nance as the only 12th-grader in the regular lineup.
Yuma won only one game in the 2A District 2 Tournament, last Friday and Saturday in Yuma, beating Akron 8-5 in the quarterfinals on Friday before losing 5-1 to top-seed Sedgwick County in the semifinals on Saturday.
However, the Indians’ 14-7 record, including wins in the regular season over Sedgwick County and Holyoke, was good enough to get into regional as an at-large team thanks to finishing 12th in the RPI. (The index takes into account a team’s winning percentage, its opponents’ winning percentage, and its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.)
The LPAA comprises one-fourth of the 16-team regional field. Sedgwick County, 19-3, is the third seed, Holyoke, 17-4, the sixth seed, and Haxtun, 15-5, the seventh seed.
The Indians, however, are just fine as the 12th seed. Sedgwick County and Holyoke are in the same four-team regional on Sunday, meaning they would play each other in the regional final (state quarterfinal) if they win their first games. (SedgCo plays 14th-seed Front Range Christian, and the Dragons get 11th-seed Rocky Ford.) Haxtun opens against 10th-seed Lyons (17-3), in its regional on Sunday, and if the Bulldogs get past that most likely would play second-seed Peyton, 20-1, who opens against a salty Limon squad as the 15th seed.
That side of the bracket is particularly stacked.
Then there is the Saturday regionals, where Yuma opens at 12:30 p.m. against fifth-seed Burlington, 14-3. Yuma and the Cougars play one non-league game each season. Burlington won 7-3 in a rain-shortened game last month in Burlington, but Yuma did not go with its top pitchers as it had a doubleheader with Holyoke two days later. Burlington countered with senior Jett County. It will be a formidable challenge, but one in which the Tribe should be confident of meeting.
The winner of that game then gets the winner of fourth-seed County Line (Wiley/McClave), 17-2, and 13th-seed Evangelical Christian, 16-5.
“You get out of our league or district, you have a chance to win some games,” Nighs
wonger said. While the Indians know Burlington well, there is no familiarity with County Line or Evangelical Christian.
“It’s hard to tell because we don’t have anyone to compare them to,” he said. “Anytime you win 17 games, you’re doing
Besides losing Gordon to injury, the Indians are healthy heading into the program’s first regional appearance since 2013, when Yuma won the district title and reached the regional final.
“It’s the same game of baseball,” Nighswonger said of his young team playing in the regional environment in Pueblo. “If you throw the ball well and hit, you usually come out on top…you just want them to get the taste because they haven’t had that opportunity.”
Yuma’s 8-5 win over Akron in the district quarterfinals on Friday earned the program it’s fifth straight district semifinal appearance. However, the Indians fell to 1-4 in those games with a tough 5-1 loss to eventual district champ Sedgwick County, after being tied going into the bottom of the fifth.
“Our district, it’s good baseball,” Nighswonger said. “The margin for error this time of year is very small. There were some mistakes that really hurt us.”
Yuma and Akron played the 12 noon quarterfinal on a sunny and warm Friday afternoon.
Two singles and a Yuma error led to Akron taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Yuma answered with one in the home half, as Gianni Trejo walked and eventually scored on an error in right field. The Indians tied it in the third when Manny Tena reached on an outfield error and scored on a wild pitch.
The Tribe took the lead for good in the fourth when a series of errors led to Trejo’s two-run double, scoring Steven Wells and Conner McCoy. Paul Brophy also scored on an infield error for a 5-2 lead.
Akron got one back in the top of the fifth off of an error and two singles. Yuma answered in the home half with two runs. Brophy hit a double and scored on an infield error, and Wells reached on an error and scored on Trejo’s sacrifice fly to left for a 7-3 lead. The Indians upped it to 8-3 in the sixth when Nance scored on a series of more errors.
Freshman pitcher Chase McCreath started to tire in the seventh, allowing two runs on three hits. However, Wells came on in relief and got the last two outs to preserve the win.
McCreath got the win, allowing five runs, three earned, on eight hits, striking out three and walking three over 6-1/3 innings. Wells had one strike out while notching the save. Levi Basler took the loss for Akron, but definitely was not helped by the Rams committing 10 errors.
Yuma had six hits, with Brophy going 2-for-4 with a double and scoring two runs, Trejo one double, one run and three RBIs, Addison Weathers one hit, Tena one hit and one run, Nance one run, Wells two runs, and McCoy one hit and one run.
The Indians then ran into Sedgwick County the next morning in the semifinals. The Cougars actually trailed eighth-seed Wray for a few innings in Friday’s quarterfinal before finally pulling away to a 13-4 win.
Yuma and the Cougars were locked into a defensive battle from the start.
The Indians did take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Giovanni Rodriguez launched a shot to deep right field, and ended up with a triple when the Cougars’ Dalton Carlson ran into the outfield wall trying to track it down. Carlson hit the wood fence hard and remained motionless on the warning track, while the center fielder ran over to get the ball in to prevent Rodriguez from chugging around for a inside-the-park homer. The game was stopped for several minutes as Carlson was attended to, eventually leaving the field and taken to the hospital with a broken arm/wrist. (He reportedly was transferred to a Denver hospital for surgery.)
Cayden Lynch came on as a courtesy runner for Rodriguez. It appeared he could be left stranded as eventually there were two outs and two strikes on the Yuma batter. However, Wells, who had reached on a walk, purposely got into a rundown between first and second, and kept it going long enough for Lynch to score from third.
Sedgwick County barely scored a run of its own in the third when Beau Parker, who had singled, scored on a two-out infield error, knotting the score at 1-1.
Sedgwick County finally broke through in the fifth when a single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs. It appeared the Indians would escape the jam on an infield bouncer, but a throwing error to first base led to clearing the bases. The Cougars scored one more after that for a 5-1 lead.
That was more than enough cushion for SedgCo pitcher Chandon Dunker, who seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. The junior set down the Indians in order over the last three innings, allowing one run on three hits, striking out nine and walking one over seven innings.
Rodriguez had the triple, and Weathers and Alex Falconburg one hit each.
Trejo was tough for the Indians as well, allowing five runs, none of them earned, striking out nine, walking two and yielding seven hits over six innings. Yuma’s three errors is not a bad day, actually, but ended up being costly in this game.
“If we get out of that inning (the fifth), we’ve got some momentum, but it didn’t happen,” Nighswonger said. “Now our mentality has to be to come back and make the next play. Now we get to make a bigger play on a bigger stage.”