College baseball: Pitching gem helps Geckos reach league semis
CARBONDALE — Bryce Johnson raised his eyebrows a bit on Tuesday after he found out the Summit Black Diamonds had hit eight home runs during their win against Eagle Valley the previous day.
“Is that so?” the lefthanded starting pitcher for the Glenwood Springs Geckos said. “Really? Well, all I can say is I’m glad it wasn’t off of me.”
In essence, Johnson and the Geckos didn’t give Summit many scoring chances at all. Thanks to Johnson’s eight-strikeout performance that accompanied a stellar game in the field by Glenwood, the Geckos prevailed 2-1 in the second round of the Mountain West Summer College Baseball League tournament at Ron Patch Memorial Field.
“This is the first pitcher’s duel that we’ve played in all season,” Geckos coach Mark Goodman said. “Our offense didn’t show up today, but we had great defense. And that’s baseball. Defense wins a lot of games when it matters.”
A lot of wins have really mattered recently for the Geckos (15-12), who have won 12 of their past 13 games and five straight overall with Tuesday’s victory.
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Their semifinal opponent has yet to be determined, other than it will be either the top-seeded Grand Junction Rocky Mountain Oysters or the fourth-seeded Vail Vipers. Rain postponed the playoff game between the teams in Grand Junction on Tuesday, with the Rocky Mountain Oysters leading the Vipers 4-3 in the sixth inning.
If Grand Junction wins, Glenwood will play the tournament semifinals in Grand Junction at 3 p.m. today. If Vail wins, Glenwood will host the Vipers at 5 p.m. today in Carbondale.
Summit (14-15), which hit those eight home runs in a 14-4, six-inning victory against Eagle Valley in Frisco on Monday, will play in a loser-out game against Steamboat Springs in Frisco today. The winner stays alive in the six-team, double-elimination tournament.
Johnson threw 107 pitches — he said it didn’t feel like it — and went the distance on the mound. He struck out eight with no walks while scattering just five hits, with two of those base hits by Summit coming in the top of the seventh inning.
No to be outdone was the outstanding performance of Summit righthander Stephen Coelho, who allowed just four hits and one earned run with two walks and five strikeouts. After allowing what turned out to be the go-ahead run for the Geckos in the bottom of the second inning, he pitched five innings of hitless ball and allowed just three baserunners, none of whom got into scoring position.
Glenwood went ahead to stay when Roaring Fork High graduate Tanner Nieslanik — a sophomore-to-be at Colorado Northwest Community College in Rangely — reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the second inning. He moved to second on a wild pitch and, after a popout, scored from second on an RBI double by Xavier Trujillo.
Summit had its chances to tie the game, though. In the sixth inning following a one-out single by Brandon Ahlstrom, Nieslanik crashed into the right-field wall after he chased down an opposite-field drive by Cain Sauls. Johnson then struck out Matt Beasley to end the threat.
In the seventh inning, Summit’s Chad Pigg and Cristian Cathey singled to put the potential go-ahead run at first base with two outs. Johnson, however, snagged a low liner off the bat of Tyler Brown for the final out of the game.
“Pitching has been good for us for the past 15 games, or 12 games, or however long it’s been,” Johnson said. “Hitters have off days. Maybe our hitters will pick up our pitchers [today].”
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The teams aren’t vying to one up the other in the rankings or looking to get a leg up in the league standings this fall, but that will hardly make the stakes any less meaningful for Basalt and Glenwood Springs high schools when they meet on the football field Friday night.