Coach Mark Gonzales will be the first to admit that things haven't come easy for the Centaurus baseball team this season.
Tabbed to take over the Warriors program late in the process, Gonzales inherited a young squad that was coming off an 8-11 campaign and had a ton of question marks heading into the season. And, after starting the year 2-1, the team struggled, dropping eight of their next nine contests.
But Gonzales liked the fight in his team and believed they would get better. On Saturday, Centaurus came up with its signature win of the season, rallying for nine runs in the final two innings to knock off 4A's No. 1-ranked team, the visiting Silver Creek Raptors 11-10.
"Obviously the season hasn't gone they way we've wanted it to, but we've continued to battle," said Gonzales, whose team improved to 4-9 overall, 2-8 in the Northern League. "I believe if you do it the right way, good things happen. My kids definitely battled and played their butts off today."
The comeback was even more improbable considering who they did it against. After Silver Creek (11-3, 6-3) scored a pair of runs in the top of the sixth to open a 10-2 lead, the Raptors turned it over to closer Dylan Ordway, who hadn't given up an earned run while picking up five saves in 9.2 innings of work this season.
After retiring the first batter he faced, Ordway surrendered consecutive hits to Joe Milano, Brandon Larson and Lucas DiSabato to load the bases.
Jeff DeBouvier was hit by a pitch to drive in a run, then Anthony Losasso's drove in another with a fielders choice to short.
Balin Jessip and Manuel Lucero followed with RBI singles before Eric Gambon drilled a run-scoring triple to the right field wall, cutting the deficit to 10-8 and chasing Ordway from the mound.
Cason Winn came on to get the final out of the frame for Silver Creek, and he was on the bump to start the bottom half of the seventh. After coaxing a long fly-ball out to open the inning, Larson started the rally with a hit off his fists that died in the infield grass.
DiSabato followed with a walk, and then DeBouvier was again hit by a pitch to load the bases.
The Raptors brought in Austin Wood to try to close things out, but he was greeted by Losasso, who hit a bounding single past third that drove in two to tie the game at 10-10.
"I was just looking to get people in," said Losasso, the 9-hole hitter. "Do whatever I could, nothing too much. Just trying to do something for the team."
That set the stage for Jessip, who popped a shot to shallow left that allowed DeBouvier to come in with the game-winner.
"I noticed they brought Wood in, and I was just up to bat and knew that if I got a base hit it would drive in the game-winning run," Jessip said. "I was just looking for a base-hit, wasn't trying to do too much."
Despite the loss, Silver Creek did a lot of things right. The Raptors jumped on Centaurus early, plating seven runs in the top of the first inning. And starter Nick Gambirasi was solid on the mound, only giving up five hits and two runs while striking out four in five innings of work.
"Those guys played through 21 outs, and I don't think we necessarily played bad," Silver Creek coach Mike Apodaca said. "I take my hats off to them. We squared a lot of balls up that were hit right at guys, and not necessarily a lot of strikeouts or things like that. The baseball gods were in their favor today."
Silver Creek remained second in RPI standings after the loss and still controls it's own postseason destiny with five games remaining in the regular season. Centaurus, meanwhile, jumped to 31st in the RPI standings, a much more precarious spot considering only 32 teams make the 4A postseason.
But with a win over the No. 1 team in their back pockets, Losasso believes the Warriors are headed in the right direction.
"This was a big one," Losasso said. "This was a turning point."
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Centaurus 11, Silver Creek 10
Silver Creek (11-3, 6-3) 701 002 0 — 10 12 0
Centaurus (4-9, 2-8) 011 006 3 — 11 14 2
W — Joe Milano. L — Cason Winn.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Cole Winn 4-2-2-1, George Ramirez 3-1-0-0, Nick Metcalf 4-1-2-0, Austin Wood 3-1-1-1, Cason Winn 4-0-1-1, Cole Borrego 0-1-0-0, Dylan Kramer 4-2-2-2, Adam Wager 3-1-2-1, Cade Call 3-1-0-0, Sam Eting 3-0-2-3. Totals 31-10-12-9. 2B —Cason Winn, Elting, Kramer. HR —Cole Winn. SB —Cole Winn, Metcalf, Wager, Elting 2
Centaurus hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Balin Jessip 3-2-2-2, Manuel Lucero 4-1-1-2, Eric Gambon 4-0-2-1, Trevor Erickson 4-0-0-1, Joe Milano 4-0-2-0, Chris Varga 0-3-0-0, Brandon Larson 4-2-2-0, Lucas DiSabato 3-1-3-0, Greg Smith 0-0-0-0, Mitch Koch 1-0-1-1, Jeff DeBouvier 1-1-0-1, Anthony Losasso 4-1-1-3. Totals 32-11-14-11. 2B — Milano. 3B —Gambon. SB —Losasso.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Nick Gambirasi 5-5-2-2-2-4, Dylan Ordway 0.2-6-6-6-0-0, Cason Winn 0.2-1-3-3-1-1, Wood 0.0-2-0-0-0-0.
Centaurus pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Nick Titus 0.1-6-7-6-1-0, Mitch Koch 2.2-4-1-1-1-4, DiSabato 2-0-0-0-1-1, Brooks MacDonald 1-2-2-2-0-1, Milano 1-0-0-0-2-2.