LAFAYETTE — How tight is the Northern League baseball race?
Coupled with Broomfield’s loss to Niwot Saturday, the Centaurus Warriors had a chance to take over first place with a win over Greeley Central. Instead, the Warriors lost and slipped to third place, though they remain only a half game out of first.
Yeah, it’s close.
After watching Centaurus rally to tie the game in the seventh inning Saturday, Greeley Central rebounded with a run in the eighth for a 5-4 extra-inning win over CHS at Izzy Salazar Field.
The Warriors dropped to 9-5 overall and 7-4 in conference play. They sit a half game behind both Broomfield (8-7, 7-3) and Longmont (10-6, 8-4), which swept Silver Creek in a doubleheader Saturday.
First place was far from the Warriors’ minds after the loss to Greeley Central, though.
More pressing for them were four fielding errors early that helped put them in a 4-0 hole against a team that’s struggled to score for most of the season in Greeley Central (5-10, 5-6).
“We kind of reverted back to what we’ve been doing in the past,” CHS starting pitcher David Shald said, referring to when the Warriors went 1-18 last season before this year’s turnaround.
Trailing 4-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, Centaurus shortstop Tristen Archuleta doubled to lead off the inning and scored to make it 4-2.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Jacob Ringham drove a ball to the gap in left field that appeared to be headed to the left fielder’s glove and the final out of the game. But confusion between the left and center fielders allowed the ball to drop between them and Centaurus runners Tanner Martinelli and Shald to score to tie the game.
“We thought we had (the momentum),” Shald said. “But it just didn’t end the way we wanted.”
Greeley Central’s Travis Lechman singled in the eighth, stole second, moved to third on a fly ball to right field, then scored on a passed ball with two outs to give the Wildcats the lead once again. Centaurus managed to get two base runners on with one out in the bottom of the eighth but a flyout and pop-up ended the threat.
The outing was another tough one offensively for Centaurus, which is averaging 7.9 runs per game on the season but just 4.3 over its last three games. Greeley Central starting pitcher Antonio Lopez worked six-plus innings, allowing just five hits and two runs, one earned.
“We’re not swinging it right now at all. … It’s a passive approach at the plate,” CHS coach Aaron Allen said. “We’ve got to turn this thing around, play some good baseball in the next week.”
Centaurus finishes the regular season with five games in six days starting Monday. Three of those are league match-ups at Mountain View, at Niwot and home against Niwot. The only sure way to hang on to one of the Northern League’s three automatic playoff berths is to win all three of those games, as Thompson Valley (8-6, 5-5) and Mountain View (6-6, 5-5) both loom in fourth place.
Of course, win all three and the Warriors might just find themselves in first place yet.
“It’s going to be a long week but hopefully we can get back into the grind of baseball and play good ball,” Shald said.
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Greeley Central 5, Centaurus 4
At Izzy Salazar Field
Greeley Central (5-10, 5-6) 020 110 01 — 5 9 4
Centaurus (9-5, 7-4) 000 010 30 — 4 7 4
W — Smythe. L — Rowsam.
Greeley Central hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Pisano 3-1-1-0, Gray 2-0-0-1, Tapia 0-0-0-0, Lechman 5-1-1-0, Smythe 4-0-1-0, Rivas 0-0-0-0, Trego 4-1-0-0, Agens 4-1-3-1, Lopez 4-0-3-0, Lenz 3-1-0-0, DeLaRosa 0-0-0-0, Loma 2-0-0-1, Degraffenfred 1-0-0-0. Totals 32-5-9-3. HR — Agens (Solo in 7th).
Centaurus hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Neitenbach 5-1-1-1, Wright 2-0-0-0, Martinelli 2-1-0-0, Shald 3-1-0-0, Jaskul 2-0-2-1, Scott 1-0-0-0, Ringham 4-0-2-2, Matosky 4-0-0-0, Angevine 2-0-0-0, DeVito 4-0-1-0, Byrne 0-0-0-0, Archuleta 3-1-1-0, Rowsam 0-0-0-0. Totals 32-4-7-4. 2B — Jaskul, Ringham, Archuleta. SB — Neitenbach.
Greeley Central pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) — Lopez 6-5-2-1-2-3, Lechman 0.1-0-2-0-1-2, Smythe 1.2-2-0-0-0-1. HB — Lopez.
Centaurus pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) — Shald 5-7-4-2-3-3, Rowsam 3-2-1-0-2-2. HB — Rowsam.