BOULDER — The past few editions of the Boulder National Invitational baseball tournament has seen the host Boulder Post 10 team watching from the stands when the quarterfinals came around on Saturday afternoon.
In 2016, however, the success they've seen in the American Legion A Elite division spilled over to the 10th NIT by earning a spot in the final eight by virtue of two solid late pool-play wins.
Though their run ended at the hands of top-seeded, first-time participant Idaho Falls, the competitiveness shown could bode well in the next couple weeks in advance of the American Legion state tournament at the end of July.
The Bandits went undefeated (4-0) in Pool C at Monarch High this week, and that run continued with a 5-2 win over Boulder Post 10. It was one of their closer victories of the entire tournament so far.
"We definitely got better as we went on, and we beat some tough teams that are probably the toughest competition we've played all year," said Jackson Dinkel, who went 2-for-3 and had a tremendous assist from the outfield in the loss. "We showed we can play with good teams."
Among the team's wins this week were against the Slammers-Bauer and Rapid City Post 320 — a 3-2 win Friday over Rapid City the key to Boulder getting out of the 31-team pool play.
Saturday's quarterfinal was just as tight throughout. Boulder, the lower seed and thus the visiting team on the scoreboard, got going with Brendan Van Haute's self-manufactured run in the top of the first (he singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third base and came home on an overthrow).
The Panthers regained the lead at 2-1 when Derek Cunningham doubled to score Aiden Chandler in the fourth frame, but they let a golden opportunity to score more runs slip away with runners at first and second and just one out.
Idaho Falls took the lead for good in the fourth inning, when Hunter Leavitt doubled to the same spot as Cunningham to score a pair of runs. Dalton Virgil pitched a complete game, allowing seven hits and striking out three.
"He didn't throw exceptionally hard but he mixed speeds well," Dinkel said.
"We're proud of where we're at, and we worked hard to get to this point even though we came up a bit short today," added head coach Tim Kupfner. "Our pitchers were gutsy, and I think we really get a lot out of them every time out. We have guys that use their brains up there."
The NIT semifinals features just one Colorado team, Aces Baseball, and Idaho is joined by Lawrence Free State (Kan.) and the Billings Royals (Mont.).
Aces Baseball 9, Colorado Rogue 3
Legacy's John Coogan went 2-for-2 with three walks, four stolen bases and three RBI as the local club team moved to Sunday's 9 a.m. semifinal against the Billings Royals.
Lawrence Free State (Kan.) 7, Diamond Club Red 3
Carter Ison fired a complete game victory with help from his defense, striking out a pair of batters and allowing just six hits. Lawrence will play Idaho Falls on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Billings Royals 4, Diamond Club Blue 3
Dawson Smith went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs driven in during the low-scoring affair to put the first-time participant Royals past DC Blue, a past tournament winner.
Idaho Falls Bandits 5, Boulder Post 10
At Scott Carpenter Park
Boulder Post 10 100 100 0 — 2 7 1
Idaho Falls 100 211 x — 5 9 2
L — Hitz.
Boulder Post 10 hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Davis 4-0-1-0, Van Haute 3-1-1-0, Chandler 3-1-1-0, Moore 3-0-1-0, Cunningham 3-0-1-1, Katz 2-0-0-0, Dinkel 3-0-2-0, Hitz 3-0-0-0, Stansel 3-0-0-0, Mistrot 0-0-0-0. Totals 27-2-9. 2B — Cunningham. SB —Van Haute.
Boulder Post 10 pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Hitz 6-9-5-5-1-5.