Grant Gamble knows all about baseball’s winning tradition at Rocky Mountain, but he had never tasted it himself.
He was a freshman when the Lobos last won a state championship in 2010, JV the next season and missed the state tournament during his first year of varsity last spring. Saturday was his time to be part of Rocky history.
Gamble went the full seven innings on the mound for Rocky in its state tournament elimination game against Legend. He took some lumps along the way, but each time the Titans found an offensive rhythm, the senior lefty responded, leading the Lobos to a 5-4 victory at All-City Field.
“There was a fire inside of all of us that we didn’t want this to end; we didn’t want to go out like this. There was a little bit extra in us to win this game,” Gamble said. “I am on top of the world right now. I couldn’t be happier. I could not be happier.”
Legend, the No. 3 seed, jumped on Rocky early with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Lobos knotted it up in the fourth thanks to an RBI single by Gamble, but Legend took the lead back in the bottom of the frame. Two innings later, Gamble again helped his cause with a two-run homer for a 4-3 lead before Legend (15-9) tied the game.
The Titans seemed to have every answer for Rocky (20-3) until the seventh, when Spencer Ibarra’s two-out, solo home run — his first of the season — gave the top-seeded Lobos the boost they needed to win.
“I knew that home run would be huge, but I wasn’t trying to do that. I was just trying to get base runners on,” Ibarra said. “This rejuvenates us from the loss yesterday. We came out pretty flat, but we’re definitely feeling high again.”
Rocky advances to the Class 5A semifinals, where it will play Grandview. In the meantime, the Lobos will focus on their offense.
The five runs Rocky scored off three home runs Saturday were more than the team produced in two games Friday. Coach Scott Bullock was pleased by his team’s offensive efficiency with seven hits, but facing single elimination for the remainder of the state tournament, the Lobos can’t afford to find themselves with a shortage of runs.
“We’ve been a little bit out of sync on offense, so we’re going to go to work on the offense we had coming into the state tournament,” Bullock said. “I felt like we hit some balls hard this game, they just went right at (Legend). We were much better today than we were yesterday, but still not as good as we can be.”
Rocky’s semifinal game will be played at noon Friday at All-City Field in Denver.
Follow reporter Matt L. Stephens at twitter.com/ mattstephens and facebook.com/stephensreporting.