GREELEY — The Peak to Peak Pumas were well aware of their detractors that believed they had no right playing in, let alone hanging with, the field of heavy hitters in the Class 3A state tournament in Greeley.
But there was something special about the Pumas that gave them that certain Bad News Bears quality, that was hard to root against.
“I’ve been trying to put my finger on it all year,” said senior Matt Bagnato of his team. “Talent-wise, you could say that last year and the year before we had a lot more talent, but there is something about this team that you can’t teach and you can’t coach.
“It’s something about the players as individuals and how we work as a family.”
There were several moments. on the penultimate sweltering Saturday of the season, where Peak to Peak could have simply mailed it in — the opening five run inning against Delta in the first elimination game that they came back to win 10-8 or the seven spot the Lamar Savages hung on them in the fifth inning of he second game.
But the fight in Pumas was there until the final out against Lamar at University’s Tom Roche Field. The Savages wiggled out of one last jam in the seventh inning and held on for a 15-13 victory over Peak to Peak that ended the Pumas season and helped Lamar move on to next weekend’s Final Four at Butch Butler Field in Greeley.
“They are a special group of kids that just refused to give up and that’s what hurts the most,” said a tearful Pumas coach Derek Urban. “We have more talent than some of the teams up here, maybe not Lamar, but it exposes itself at the right times.”
The Pumas, who had pitched by committee all season, were running out of fresh arms on Saturday. And after a tough first inning against Delta where Max Higon gave up five runs to the Panthers, Urban went right back to him in the second game and he didn’t let him down. Higdon kept his team in the game before departing in the aforementioned seven-run fifth.
“It was like a whole different pitcher that second game,” said Urban of Higdon. “It’s just phenomenal to be a part of these kids, they are special.”
Lamar responded to Peak to Peak’s five run top half of the inning with seven of their own, with the big blow a towering grand slam by Lucas Watson that sent the Savages faithful into a frenzy, especially after their coach Jason Veyna was tossed in the top half for vehemently arguing with the home plate umpire.
The Pumas answered in the top of the sixth on Bagnato’s three-run home run to cut the lead to 12-11.
“That felt nice. I knew it was fastball and I was just going to try and stroke it and see what happened,” said Bagnato, who watched catcher Nathan Portez rope one out of the park in the first inning.
Lamar again answered with three more in the bottom of the sixth, setting the stage for one last Peak to Peak miracle.
With two outs and two runners on, Bagnato singled in Garrett Shriver for the first run. Niko DeNiro then doubled home Hayden Wilcox and suddenly the lead was 15-13 and the Pumas had two runners in scoring position. But Higdon’s liner to short was snared at short to end the game.
“That was fun,” said Bagnato, who will attend Samford University in Alabama next year . “Sad to be done, but what a ride.”
Peak to Peak 10, Delta 8
At Tom Roche Field
Peak to Peak (15-7)130 204 0 — 10 14 1
Delta (15-8)500 030 0 — 8 10 3
Peak to Peak hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — M. Bagnato 4-3-3-1, DeNiro 5-2-2-2, Higdon 5-1-2-1, Weyer 4-0-0-0, Poretz 3-1-2-3, Shriver 3-1-1-0, Van Tol 2-0-1-1, Alvarez 1-0-0-0, A. Bagnato 3-1-2-0, Feddema 4-1-1-1, Wilcox 0-0-0-0, Gendreau 0-0-0-0. Totals 34-10-14-9. 2B —M. Bagnato, A. Bagnato, Feddema, Poertz. SB —M. Bagnato 4, DeNiro, Higdon.
Delta hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — J. Carmichael 3-1-1-0, Bynum 4-1-1-0, R. Carmichael 4-1-2-2, Reeder 4-1-0-0, Myers 3-0-2-1, Hollenback 4-1-1-0, Keller 2-1-1-2, Lockhart 0-0-0-0, Easter 3-0-1-0, Holgate 3-0-1-1, Kraai 0-1-0-0, Wilson 0-1-0-0, Horn 0-0-0-0. Totals 31-8-10-6. 2B — Bynum, R. Carmichael, Keller, Easter.
Peak to Peak pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Higdon 1-5-5-5-2-1, Alvarez 3-1-0-0-0-0, Van Tol .1-3-3-3-1-0, Shriver 2-1-0-0-0-2, DeNiro .2-0-0-0-2-2.
Delta pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Hollenbeck 5-11-8-7-3-7, Horn .1-2-2-2-0-0, Kraai 1.2-1-0-0-1-1.
Lamar 15, Peak to Peak 13
Peak to Peak (15-8)300 053 2 — 13 8 1
Lamar (22-2)020 373 x — 15 14 2
Peak to Peak hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — M. Bagnato 4-3-3-5, DeNiro 3-1-1-1, Higdon 5-0-1-0, Weyer 4-2-0-0, Poretz 3-1-1-2, Shriver 2-1-0-1, Van Tol 3-0-0-0, Feddema 3-2-1-0, Wilcox 2-2-1-0, Gendreau 0-1-0-0, Alvarez 0-0-0-0. Totals 29-13-8-9. 2B —DeNiro. HR —Poretz (1 on in 1st), M. Bagnato (2 on in 6th). SB —Van Tol.
Lamar hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Watson 4-1-1-4, Carere 5-1-3-2, Jacobs 3-0-0-0, Guevara 3-2-0-0, Chandler 2-4-2-0, Eberhardt 4-2-2-2, Sicklebower 1-0-1-0, Spitz 3-1-2-4, Morales 0-1-0-0, Farmer 4-2-2-1, LaTour 0-0-0, Sneller 0-0-0-0. Totals 32-15-14-14. 2B — Chandler. HR —Watson (3 on in 5th). SB —Guevara, Eberhardt.
Peak to Peak pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Higdon 4-6-7-7-1-0, Van Tol 1-4-5-5-3-0, Weyer .2-4-3-3-1-2, M. Bagnato .1-0-0-0-0-1.
Lamar pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Eberhart 4.2-3-8-8-6-6, Jacobs 2.1-5-5-5-2-1.