Race Gardner is looking at his time with the Boulder Collegians as more than just a pit stop.
The California product, who has spent the past two seasons with the Pasadena City College baseball team and who plans to transfer to Hawaii-Hilo next season, is looking to develop some consistency and confidence just like most of his Collegians teammates.
The local collegiate team was in need of both of those elements on Friday night after a modest three-game losing streak, and with the help of Gardner, Hawaii-Hilo's John Kea and a bit of a rallying cry, the Collegians were able to win an important contest in walk-off fashion, 6-5 over the Laramie Colts.
Gardner was about as consistent as it comes on the mound for four innings in just his second start with the team, and with that came a little bit of confidence after a rough first start. For the Collegians as a whole, the bats came alive in the final two innings at Scott Carpenter Park, setting up a game-winning single for Marc Goulart (St. Mary's University) after the hosts had coughed up a 5-2 lead in the top of the seventh.
For all the flair, Gardner saw his new teammates show some important emotion that could carry the team to better heights.
"I don't think I've ever been on a team with this much chemistry already," Gardner said after his outing, which was part of a Rocky Mountain Baseball League doubleheader. "I went to Arizona with the guys, and that was like their third of fourth game, and they were already jelling and rooting for each other.
"When you have guys that have the common goal of winning, that's when everyone gets along and is pulling for each other. I want to do everything to compete and help this team win."
Gardner joins a load of Collegians pitchers looking to keep their arms live this summer. He pitched a total of 45 innings for PCC this past spring, going 5-1 with two saves sprinkled in.
Not a heavy strikeout type pitcher, Gardner did manage seven strikeouts against one walk on Friday night and put in the work head coach Matt Sena is looking for.
"Race goes out there and just wants the ball," Sena said. "He had a rough outing on Sunday, got in a couple innings and got lit up a little bit ... he got the ball for the start today, and here we are because he kept us in the game."
Gardner left with a 2-0 deficit, but Kea came in relief and kept the Colts to two runs through the sixth inning. The Collegians (13-4) plated five runs in the bottom of the sixth — a grand slam off the bat of Bryce Bullock (Nevada-Las Vegas) being the highlight — and appeared to be in line for a nice win.
Nothing has come easy for the Collegians against the Colts, however, and Laramie managed to score three runs in the top of the seventh and tie the game at 5-5.
Adams State's Nico Nintze singled to lead off the bottom half but was thrown out trying to extend to second base, and Brady Michel (Barton Community College) followed with a double that arguably would have scored Nintze. But the Collegians didn't get burned by the out, thanks to Goulart's solid hit down the third base line with two outs on the board.
The Collegians had 10 hits, with eight of those coming in the final two innings.
"Going ahead in the sixth inning was big, but I kind of feel that we needed the walk-off more than perhaps we needed the win in the sixth," Sena said. "It brings us together just a little bit more. Getting that losing streak off our plate, it's been a good day."
The Collegians will be back home for league play Thursday against the Sterling Express, a doubleheader that follows Wednesday's league all-star game up in Sterling.