LAFAYETTE — There’s nothing quite like high-stakes baseball on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Colorado.
On Monday at Dawson School, the Mustangs and visiting Lyons took advantage of the perfect weather to engage in a heated battle that Dawson stole on a seventh-inning walk-off with a bases-loaded wild pitch, 6-5. Dawson sophomore utility man Ashtin Gilio scored the go-ahead run.
“I knew it was a lefty on the mound, so I could get a big lead at third,” Gilio said. “I just knew if the ball was going past, I was going home. We were down to our final out, the game was tied, so I just needed the pitcher to give us a little help and he came through.”
Up until that point, the contest could have swung either way.
Both starting pitchers threw strong games as Dawson’s junior Conor Wolf struck out 14 batters and Lyons’ junior Adam Brookes knocked down 12.
“We’ve been able to come back in a lot of games and not get down, even after giving up a 3-1 lead in the top of the seventh, which was disappointing,” Dawson head coach Peter Chandler said. “You can see that it starts with the pitcher. Conor is out there and he has a couple errors behind him, but he doesn’t let it get to him and he steps up. He’s the leadoff batter in the bottom of the seventh and he hits a triple. So that’s the mentality that he brings as a leader on this team.”
The Lions struck first in the opening inning as they capitalized on a few wild pitches that put runners in optimum scoring position. Senior first baseman Ryan Schechter, who finished the game with three RBIs, took advantage as he drove in a runner from third while getting out himself to put the visiting team up 1-0 early.
Dawson took four innings before it was able to respond.
With two outs down and two men on in the bottom of the fifth inning, Dawson freshman Charlie Heathwood handed his team a 1-1 tie when he popped the ball over the head of the first baseman to drive in a run. Two batters later, senior Danny Gonzales-Hyde singled to bring in another score and give the Mustangs a 2-1 advantage.
The Mustangs scored once more in the bottom of the sixth frame when an off-kilter throw past the catcher brought a runner home from third. Dawson led 3-1 going into the top of the seventh.
All they had to do was secure three quick outs. The Lions, however, had other plans.
Three consecutive base hits and an error brought a Lyons runner home. In the very next at-bat, senior outfielder Bode Shiver drove in another run to tie the game up at 3-3.
Two batters after that, Schecter batted in two more on a smooth, two-out single. The Lions took a 5-3 advantage to force the bottom of the seventh.
The Mustangs didn’t squander the chance they were given.
Dawson’s offense stormed back in the final frame when it scored two runs, first on an error and then on a base hit from freshman utility man Wade Hartrick. That tied the game up again at 5-5 before Lyons strategically loaded the bases on zero outs. Brookes struck out the next two batters before his coaches pulled him. He had exceeded the CHSAA-mandated pitch count limit.
Just a few pitches after that, Gilio ended any hope Lyons had of bouncing back when he came in from third on a wild pitch to complete the walk-off.
“I think it’s all down to just the love of the game,” Schechter said. “Both teams played their hearts out. Everybody’s tired — on a hot day like this too.”
With the win under their belts, the Mustangs head next to Gilpin County for a 4 p.m. first pitch on Tuesday. Lyons, likewise, will prepare to host Denver Christian on Tuesday at the same time.
“I guess the lesson for us really is that this is our third straight loss,” Lyons head coach Kale Olson said. “It was really close. They felt the competitiveness of the game versus up and down, up and down. I think our learning experience is to finish games, make the routine plays.”