The nerves might have gotten to Ari Barnett.
If he had time to develop them, that is.
When the line drive off the bat of Legacy’s Jordan Luthi rocketed back at him, the Boulder senior pitcher only had time to react. With the tying run on third, Barnett speared the liner and preserved the host Panthers’ 4-3 win Thursday at Scott Carpenter Park.
“Just pure reaction,” Barnett said with a chuckle.
It was a key victory that allowed the Panthers (9-6, 5-3) to keep pace with the upper half of the Front Range League as the regular season winds down.
“We made our share of mistakes, but finding a way to get the job done is our theme of the week,” said Boulder coach Colt Sedbrook, whose team plays five games this week.
Boulder mounted its winning rally in the fourth, when trailing 3-1. Catcher Max Bajza doubled home a run and second baseman Andrew McCarthy followed with a two-run single that stood up as the winner.
“He had been throwing me off-speed my first at-bat and kept going to that my second at-bat,” McCarthy said of Legacy starter Josh Chamberlain. “I was just looking for something up to drive. Luckily he threw me a fastball on the outer half and I got through it and got it over the second baseman’s head.”
McCarthy also made two sensational plays in the field. Positioned at second base rather than his customary shortstop due to non-severe arm issues, McCarthy flagged a rising liner by Luthi to lead off the fourth. Then he dove to his left to rob Ryan Overboe of a base hit to lead off the seventh.
“You make the routine play over and over again, then you’re going to make that superstar, SportsCenter, web-gem-type play,” Sedbrook said.
While Boulder’s clear objective is to nail down one of the league’s five playoff spots and not get thrown into a Wild Card situation, Sedbrook doesn’t want his players overly concerning themselves with the big picture. He’s been instructing them to focus on battles within the game, such as fouling off a two-strike pitch, to “stay more engaged.”
The Panthers survived despite three outs on the bases, including two on back picks by Legacy standout catcher Wyatt Cross.
For Legacy (6-9, 3-5), it marked the second straight contest in which the Lightning jumped to an early lead but couldn’t hang on. This one had a different feel than Tuesday’s loss to Monarch, however, when the Lightning built a 3-0 lead but watched it disappear with a disastrous sixth inning.
“The other day, our goose eggs were the result of us not putting balls in play,” Legacy coach Ty Giordano said. “Today, the goose eggs are a result of us stinging the ball all over the yard and them making plays.”
The Lightning led 2-0 two batters in after Jordan Crockett singled and Matt Ayala followed with a two-run homer. Crockett added an RBI double in the second to make it 3-1.
Boulder starter Cam Burke shut things down from there and earned the win with five solid innings. Barnett collected the save by finishing with two scoreless innings, including the close call with Luthi in the seventh. Base hits by Bradon O’Connor and Ayala gave the Lightning runners on the corners with two outs.
“The approach was to come at him with the fastball, let him hit it, and that’s pretty much what we did,” said Barnett, who was hit in the hip with a comebacker during the summer. “Very satisfying. Very happy.”
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Boulder 4, Legacy 3
At Scott Carpenter Park
Legacy 120 000 0 — 3 7 2
Boulder 100 300 X — 4 9 2
W — Cam Burke (2-0). L — Josh Chamberlain (0-4). Sv — Ari Barnett (1).
Legacy hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Jared Crockett 4-1-2-1, Matt Ayala 4-1-2-2, Jordan Luthi 4-0-0-0, Paul Thompson 3-0-0-0, Brandon Pearce 2-0-1-0, Grant Kauvar 3-0-0-0, Anthony Rouco 3-0-1-0, Josh Chamberlain 1-1-0-0, Ryan Overboe 1-0-0-0, Bradon O’Connor 3-0-1-0. 2B — Crockett, Rouco. HR — Ayala (one on in 1st).
Boulder hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Tommy Baumgartner 4-1-2-0, Montana Guegan 4-0-1-0, Ari Barnett 3-0-0-1, Kelby Woodard 3-0-2-0, Aiden Chandler 3-1-1-0, Dana Sullivan 2-1-1-0, Max Bajza 3-1-1-1, Andrew McCarthy 2-0-1-2, Jordan Wardell 2-0-0-0, Adam Stowe 0-0-0-0. Totals 26-4-9-4. 2B — Bajza. SB — Sullivan.
Legacy pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Chamberlain 5-9-4-4-0-3, Jordan Comstock 1-0-0-0-2-0.
Boulder pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Cam Burke 5-5-3-3-1-2, Barnett 2-2-0-0-0-1.