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Victory slips out of Evergreen’s grasp

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Wheat Ridge rallies for five runs in the 7th to spoil Cougars’ delayed home opener

By Michael Hicks

Josh Bellatti never felt that Evergreen had the game in hand, and Wheat Ridge made sure that was the case in the seventh inning.

The visiting Farmers, three outs away from a sure defeat, sent 10 batters to the plate and rallied to score five times in the final frame for a stunning 7-5 come-from-behind victory at Evergreen High School on April 2.

“It’s unfortunate, but that’s baseball. That’s why you come out and play, and that’s why you compete,” said Bellatti, who was tagged with the loss after allowing all five runs in the seventh on just three hits. “You win some and you lose some. I think we had it, but at the last moment, we had a few bad breaks, and it got away from us.”

But it didn’t have to.

With a run in, runners on first and second and one out, Lane Wagoner grounded to second base, but an ill-advised decision to try and get the lead runner at second instead of the out at first backfired. Interim head coach Dale Hutchings thought it was a missed call by the umpire. Either way, the bases were now loaded.

One batter later – after Diego Garcia struck out for the second out of the inning – Garrett O’Keefe cracked a two-run single to tie the game. Two batters after that, after Wheat Ridge loaded the bases again, Alcario Torrez was hit by a pitch, driving in Wagoner for what would turn out to be the game-winning run. The Farmers added an insurance run on a wild pitch.

“The bottom line is that with the kind of league that we’re in, you’ve got to play your best game every time that you come out. You’ve got to be ready to play and you can’t put it in cruise control. You’ve never got too many runs,” Hutchings said.

The outcome ruined a solid pitching outing for starter Jake Englehart. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed just two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings, while walking four and striking out five. He retired seven in a row before allowing back-to-back walks with one out in the sixth and turning the ball over to Bellatti.

Evergreen went up 2-1 on Beau Priegnitz’s two-run home run in the bottom of the second and extended that lead to 5-2 with Eli Ausmus’ RBI single in the third and Sam Hudd’s two-run single in the fifth. Ryan Hays scored twice for the Cougars.

Evergreen didn’t help its cause by stranding eight base runners in the first six innings. Five of those runners were left in scoring position.

“That’s just the nature of the beast. You’ve got to be ready to play. You’ve got to seize the moment,” Hutchings said. “We had guys at bat with runners on, and they didn’t take the bat off their shoulders. We didn’t execute.”