NIWOT — There might be many around the Northern League who are surprised with Niwot baseball’s late-season rise. Kai Halsey-Mendez is not one of them.
The Cougars’ second baseman was certain his team had the talent to secure a top spot in one of Class 4A’s premier conferences. And his belief in his team’s potential, as of Monday, is appearing to be almost prophetic.
Niwot came one game closer to a spot in the postseason behind and 5-3 win over cross-town rival Silver Creek. All it took the Cougars was shaking off some early-season missteps that had held them back.
“From day one we knew we could play like this,” Halsey-Mendez said. “There was always just something in a game we didn’t do right and it wasn’t quite there. But now we’re playing closer to our potential every game.”
As it stands now, Craig McBride is fairly confident Niwot (9-9, 7-6) has the wild-card points to earn a district berth after its win over Silver Creek (1-17, 1-12). But from what the Cougars coach can decipher from the conference standings mess, his team still has the potential to earn a guaranteed berth. What that it would come down to is Niwot winning its final game of the season at 4 p.m., Tuesday at Silver Creek, and then have league leader and 10th-ranked Broomfield beat Mountain View.
“That’s the crucial game,” McBride said. “But we still need to win.”
The Cougars showed how hungry they are for the postseason Monday, snagging their victory off opportunistic play. The team rallied from a one-run deficit in the fourth, gaining its first and final lead off a rash of Silver Creek miscues. Alex Kinnison, Danny Caruso and Bryan Hawthorne all got on base in the inning off three consecutive Raptors’ errors.
The run of plays might have had Niwot sky high, but drew Silver Creek coach Trevor Platt’s ire. What had Platt so fired up was the run of errors smashing a solid showing on the mound by Raptors pitcher Brock Ricks.
“The problem is we had a pitcher throw lights out and we didn’t support him,” Platt said. “We couldn’t take care of it today.”
Silver Creek might not have had the juice to rally back completely, but it did make Niwot sweat. The team drew within a run in the fifth in what turned out to be Alex Kinnison’s roughest inning. The starting pitcher did not surrender a hit in the inning, but two runs skipped home off a passed ball and a sacrifice fly.
“It got a little heated,” said Kinnison, who finished his five-inning stay with five strikeouts. “We got out of it luckily without a lot of damage.”
Halsey-Mendez was one of the few Niwot batters to bite into Ricks’ pitching, finishing the afternoon with two hits and two RBIs. His final at bat in the sixth, the second baseman sent an insurance run home to give his team some breathing room for the remainder of the game.
“The got a little momentum back, but we were able to step up and swing it right back in our direction,” Halsey-Mendez said.
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Niwot 5, Silver Creek 3
Silver Creek (1-17, 1-12) 000 120 0 — 3 3 5
Niwot (9-9, 7-6) 000 401 x — 5 5 0
W — Kinnison (1-1). L — Ricks (0-4).
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Metcalf 4-1-0-0, Grine 3-0-0-0, Brown 1-0-0-0, Stauss 3-0-0-1, Siedem 1-1-0-0, Fleming 3-0-2-0, Ricks 3-0-1-0, Deckert 3-0-0-0, Ludwig 2-1-0-0. Totals 23-3-3-1. 2B — Fleming.
Niwot hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Halsey 4-0-2-2, Meek 3-0-1-0, Morris 3-0-0-0, Kinnison 2-0-0-0, Katechis 3-1-0-0, Caruso 3-1-0-0, Hawthorne 2-2-0-0, Kirpatrick 3-1-1-0, Sarosi 2-0-0-1. Totals 25-5-4-3. SB — Kirkpatrick.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Kinnison 5-3-3-1-5-5, Cintoria 2-0-0-0-1-3.
Team pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Ricks 6-4-5-1-2-0.