NIWOT — Niwot freshman Cameron Hassert was the perfect candidate for a 'why not' kind of baseball play on Thursday afternoon against Greeley Central.
That's what Cougars head coach Craig McBride thought, at least, as his team was desperately searching for its first win of the season. Before he knew it, Hassert had delivered a game-winning squeeze bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk off the Wildcats, 5-4, at the NHS field.
The still-wet-behind-the-ears Hassert dropped his bat on the ball as leadoff hitter Zach Kinnison was screaming down the third base line, and the Wildcats had no chance to get the ball home before the Niwot dugout emptied in a frenzy.
It was unconventional, yes. But it may just be the kind of play that gets the Cougars headed in the right direction after losing their first four games to Northern League stalwarts Silver Creek and Northridge.
"We've been in some close games already, and we did just need to get over the hump for once," McBride said after watching his team load the bases with one out for Hassert, who was just inserted into the game as a pinch hitter. "We made some mistakes today and we still have to clean things up. But there is a lot of spring left and a lot of baseball left, so we're feeling pretty good.
"Cameron's a kid that is a swing player for us, but he's going to spend some more time with us and just might stick."
For Hassert, the play he made was just a culmination of the way the entire contest had played out. Trailing three different times, the Cougars just continued to battle in every facet of the game and though there were some miscues, there were also moments of brilliance on defense in the later innings.
That kept the game manageable, and in the seventh the Cougars were able to finally get over the proverbial hump. Down 4-3, Joey Desfentes doubled and scored on Kinnison's single, Joey Neve reached on a bunt down the first base line and Skyler Messinger drew a walk to load the bases.
With one out, Hassert approached the plate initially looking for a base hit. But when McBride threw the bunt signal at him after fouling a pitch off, Hassert was calm as could be.
"To be honest, all I could think was to have fun and just try and relax and do a job. Each of us on the team has a job to do," Hassert said. "Greeley Central is a good team, and to come up big like that feels amazing. Especially getting our first win of the year, it just feels really good."
Almost everything came together for the Cougars, which was coming off a one-run loss (9-8) to Northridge and had suffered an extra-inning loss to Silver Creek, as well.
They produced eight hits as Messinger went 3-for-3 with a double and a home run, and pitcher Hunter Stephens labored through 5 ⅔ innings, allowing just two earned runs. He gave way to Dylan Ferrero for the final few outs and the win.
Trevor Green and Kinnison each made a couple tough catches in the outfield, as well, to balance out three NHS errors.
"I might have come up with the big play, as you might call it, but I think this game was about all of us and that's what wins ball games," Hassert said.
"I wasn't necessarily planning on that (squeeze) right there, and I was going to let their pitcher throw a few." McBride added. "After he popped up the foul, that's when I decided to go with it. He did a great job of it."
Niwot finishes out its series against the Wildcats on Saturday and then will head to Arizona for the only non-league games of its season.
Niwot 5, Greeley Central 4
At Niwot HS
Greeley Central (2-5)101 100 1 — 4 8 0
Niwot (1-4)002 010 2 — 5 8 3
W — Ferrero. L — Hudson.
Greeley Central hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Bonham 3-1-2-0, Lesser 4-0-0-1, Hudson 4-1-0-0, Loma 2-1-2-0, Cervantes 2-0-0-0, Yeadon 3-0-1-0, Morales 0-0-0-0, Blackburn 4-0-0-1, Hunter 3-0-1-0, Yackey 3-1-2-1, Meza 0-0-0-0. Totals 28-4-8-3. 3B —Bonham. HR — Yackey.
Niwot hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Kinnison 3-2-1-1, Neve 4-0-1-0, Messinger 3-2-3-2, Goldfarb 3-0-1-1, Snead 0-0-0-0, Green 3-0-0-0, Hassert 1-0-1-1, Stephens 2-0-0-0, Wills 1-0-0-0, Garza 1-0-0-0, Galloway 2-0-0-0, Desenfants 3-1-1-0. Totals 26-5-8-5. 2B — Messinger, Goldfarb, Desenfants. HR —Messinger.
Greeley Central pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Hudson 6-7-5-5-3-4, Loma 0.1-1-0-0-1-1.
Niwot pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Stephens 5.2-7-3-2-3-5, Ferrero 1.1-1-1-1-0-0.