With his team up two runs in the seventh inning, Tyler Stevens had the bases loaded against him with only one out and Legacy High School’s best hitter at the plate.
Stevens stood tall, toeing the rubber. He stared with laser-like intensity toward home plate before Legacy’s Jacob Bublitz even entered the batter’s box.
Bublitz struck out on a fastball and then Stevens got Dylan Farrell to fly out to give Rocky Mountain a 3-1 win and control of the Front Range League.
In the seventh things got nervous for Rocky (12-2, 8-0 FRL). Visiting Legacy (8-5, 4-1 FRL) got a man on and Lobos coach Scott Bullock visited his starter on the mound, but only to encourage Stevens.
“Tyler had been so good and he kept getting stronger and stronger,” Bullock said. “I told my pitching coach that (Stevens) needs to know that this is his inning.”
The next hitter hit an infield single and that was followed by a bunt single to load the bases. That’s when the showdown with Bublitz happened. The big first basemen entered Monday hitting .342 on the season and had two hits already in the game.
“He had gotten my twice before in the game, then I had struck him out and I wanted to do it again,” Stevens said.
That’s exactly what he did as Bublitz fanned on a high fastball. That was the 12th strikeout for Stevens in the complete-game win. It was a calm finish to a close, well-played game.
The two teams entered as the only two FRL members without a league loss.
Legacy pitcher Lucas Gilbreath, a junior left-hander, entered with a 1.70 ERA and had struck out 69 batters in 37 innings this season.
He kept Rocky hitters off balance early and often, twice striking out the side and ultimately striking out 10 batters in five innings.
“Without question, to me, the best pitcher we’ve seen all spring,” Bullock said. “He had really good stuff. He threw all his pitches in all counts and we couldn’t get a read off him.”
That changed in the fifth inning as Rocky, ranked No. 2 in The Denver Post Poll in Class 5A, was sparked by Stevens.
He rapped a double off Gilbreath to start the inning. The next two batters walked to load the bases and Spencer Ibarra hit a two-run single that ultimately decided the game.
That offensive burst came from a unique source. Rocky players on the bench had been tracking the signals Legacy coaches sent to the catcher all game. They learned the numbering system was using and by the fifth inning were able to relay what was coming to batters and finally they found a way to get a read on Gilbreath.
That secret to success couldn’t have come at a better time. Rocky has now won 10 consecutive games and controls its own destiny in the FRL.
“We feel amazing. Our confidence is through the roof right now,” Stevens said. “We just have to make sure we don’t let up.”
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on Twitter @Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.