DENVER — Rocky Mountain High School lefty starter Austin Alarid dominated Mullen in the team’s opening game of the Class 5A state baseball championships on Friday.
The Lobos then got a dose of their own medicine against Cherokee Trail lefty ace Conner Nantkes.
Nantkes shut out Rocky Mountain in the afternoon game on day one of the state championships as Cherokee Trail beat the Lobos 7-0. Rocky Mountain now faces elimination from the state tournament.
The Lobos play a must-win game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at All-City Field against the winner between Ralston Valley and ThunderRidge. Rocky Mountain beat ThunderRidge 13-6 in the regular season finale two weeks ago.
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“It’s a one-game season for us now. We have to find a way to get to next weekend, so we can worry about next weekend at that time,” said Rocky Mountain coach Scott Bullock.
CSU football fans, you may recognize Nantkes’ name. The junior pitcher is the son of former UNLV quarterback Kurt Nantkes, who led the Rebels to an upset win over No. 16 Colorado State University in 2002. Before quarterbacking UNLV, the elder Nantkes was a pitcher in the Oakland Athletics organization for a couple of seasons after being drafted out of Hinkley High School in 1998.
Conner Nantkes no doubt has picked up a few tricks (and a golden arm) from dad. He showed a deft command of his fastball and curve
“He was a difference maker. He did a great job of mixing speeds. The curve
Cherokee Trail broke open the game with back-to-back three-run innings.
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In the fourth inning, the Cougars scored three runs on a perfectly executed squeeze play with the bases loaded. That sequence came after a controversial play at the plate when Cherokee Trail’s Ryan Sullivan was called out at home but not called for interference after he appeared to have stuck out his foot while sliding, preventing Lobos’ catcher Chris Diehl from making the throw to first base.
Under the interference rule, the runner at first base would be called out. But, after a lengthy argument, the game’s umpire ruled no interference.
The next batter executed the perfect squeeze bunt down the first base line, resulting in a throwing error that led to three runs.
“That’s postseason baseball. Calls won’t go your way, but I want to make things clear: That’s not why we lost the game. Cherokee Trail outplayed us, and unfortunately today we weren’t able to make enough plays,” Bullock said.
In Friday’s opener, Alarid pitched a strong 5 ⅔ innings, allowing only three hits as Rocky Mountain beat Mullen 5-1.
Alarid didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, keeping Mullen off balance with a crisp fastball and changeup. He finished with eight strikeouts.
Rocky Mountain jumped out to the 5-0 lead thanks to a first inning two-run single by second baseman Brendan Paul and an RBI double by Spencer Gendreau. The Lobos tacked on two more in the third from a two-run single by Kadin Breeze.
The Lobos now look ahead to Saturday’s win or go home scenario.
“Coming here with a few veteran guys, we knowing the quality of teams we’ll be facing and how intense (the games are). We’ve been in situations like this,” Alarid said.
Xplore reporter Stephen Meyers covers the outdoors and recreation for the Coloradoan. Follow him on Twitter @stemeyer or @XploreNoCo.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN 5, MULLEN 1
Rocky Mountain 302 000 0 — 5 11 2
Mullen 000 010 0 — 1 3 0
WP: Alarid. LP: Nuanes
Extra base hits: 2B — Gendreau, RM; Sorensen (2), RM; Morris, RM.
CHEROKEE TRAIL 7, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 0
Rocky Mountain 000 000 0 — 0 2 4
Cherokee Trail 000 331 x — 7 9 1
WP: Nankes. LP: Sorenson.
Extra base hits: none.