LONGMONT — You just never expect a popped-up bunt to carry such drama. The way the battle was unfolding between the Skyline and Frederick baseball teams, though, not much was off limits.
Two teams that need help in the Tri-Valley League in order to make the playoffs still fought like it mattered, but when Skyline’s Tyler Hamby moved from first to third on Thomas Hoog’s eighth-inning bunt attempt that was inches from being a great defensive play, the scales tipped in the favor of the Falcons.
Hamby was able to walk to home plate a short while later when starting pitcher Evan Prestwich grazed Tyler Brenneman with a bases-loaded pitch, giving the hosts a 4-3 win that sets up an interesting Saturday rematch.
There was absolutely nothing routine about Hoog’s bunt attempt, which came with no one out in the eighth after Hamby had walked. Prestwich leapt off the mound and tried to dive toward the first-base line to catch the ball, but as the ball hit his glove he simultaneously collided with catcher Justin Smith — who was also making a valiant effort at the out.
Heads-up baserunning from Hamby made the play matter significantly. He scooted to second base to force a throw, and a close play there was ruled safe. Frederick players began to argue the call vehemently, all the while with no one covering third base. Hamby took appropriate action.
“Tyler moving up to third on that crazy bunt play was huge, and that pretty much won us the game right there,” said Nate Higgins, Skyline’s starting pitcher who threw seven strong innings.
Smith got hurt on the collision, and with him and Prestwich still down on the ground it only added confusion to the scene.
“Part of growing up in the game is to control the things that you can control, and when a call is made you go to the next play,” said Frederick coach Ted Clapp. “I think in that particular situation, we got caught up in it and handed out a base that we shouldn’t have. There were kids hurt, and I think the boys were fired up. I think the umpires did a good job to let it play out. It was just unfortunate how it worked out for us.”
Clapp added that the explanation he got from the umpire on the call at second was because his player wasn’t touching the base on what should have been a force play. That wasn’t the only play that was argued during the game, either.
After things settled down, the Warriors elected to intentionally walk Justin Forsyth to set up a force at any base, but Brenneman ended it with the infield drawn in by taking an 0-1 pitch on the arm.
Though Forsyth ended up with the win after stranding a runner at second base in his one inning pitched, Higgins was exceptional in holding Frederick (6-9, 3-7 TVL) to just one hit from the fourth inning through the seventh. The sophomore retired the final nine batters he faced.
Tied at 3-3 in the fifth, Nelson led off with a single and was awarded second base on a dead ball throwing error. Eric Worley sacrificed pinch-runner Avery Elkins to third, but Higgins got out of the jam with a ground ball and a flyout.
“It was a good team win, and we needed it because we’ve been struggling,” Higgins said. “I felt stronger as the game went along, and I just kind of got some momentum and went with it.”
“Nate did a great job, just like he has all year,” Skyline coach Michael Hoog said, his team improving to 7-7 and 3-6 in league. “He’s one of those kids who gives you five, six, seven innings and keeps you in ballgames. If we played a little better defense we could cut down his pitch count for him, too. He’s been a stud though.”
Prestwich was nearly as solid for FHS. He got help from three straight innings where his defense turned double-plays, and he also got out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings to keep his team in it. But the Falcons only struck out once against him, and putting the ball in play worked just enough to get SHS back in the game after Frederick had gained a 3-1 lead early. Skyline scored runs in the second, third and fourth frames to equalize things.
Clapp was hoping his team would produce more after getting a good start at the plate.
“Both pitchers did a heck of a job,” Clapp said. “We need to fire it up at the plate a bit. We need to start squaring things up a lot more than we’ve been.”
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SKYLINE 4, FREDERICK 3, (8 INN.)
At Skyline HS
Frederick 201 000 00 — 3 7 2
Skyline 011 100 01 — 4 9 3
W — Justin Forsyth. L — Evan Prestwich.
Frederick hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Lane Hiser 4-0-0-0, Dalton Nelson 4-1-2-0, Avery Elkins 0-0-0-0, Eric Worley 3-1-1-0, Brandon Zuniga 4-1-2-0, Evan Prestwich 4-0-1-0, Mario Ramirez 4-0-1-1, Cameron Muncy 2-0-0-0, Justin Smith 3-0-0-0, Matt Entrekin 3-0-0-0. Totals 31-3-7-1. 2B —Zuniga. SB —Worley, Ramirez 2.
Skyline hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Daniel Kalfas 3-1-0-0, Tyler Hamby 3-1-2-0, Thomas Hoog 4-0-2-1, Justin Forsyth 3-1-1-0, Tyler Brenneman 3-0-1-2, Walter Nieuwlandt 3-0-0-0, Matt Bulow 2-1-1-0, Nick Hamby 3-0-1-0, Jesus Bojoroquez 3-0-1-0. Totals 27-4-9-3. SB —Forsyth 2.
Frederick pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Prestwich 7-9-4-3-4-1.
Skyline pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Nate Higgins 7-6-3-0-1-4, Forsyth 1-1-0-0-0-1.