Geckos split with Storm, snap 10-game winning streak
The Glenwood Geckos continue to distance themselves from the rest of the Mountain West Summer Collegiate Baseball League thanks to a split of Tuesday’s afternoon doubleheader against the visiting Steamboat Springs Storm.
Glenwood won the first game 9-4 thanks to a 3-run homerun from Blake Billinger — a sophomore first baseman and outfielder from Mission College — in the bottom of the sixth before going on to drop game two to the Storm, 7-3, pushing their overall record to 10-2 on the season.
With sophomore pitcher Taylor Gulick of Blue Mountain Community College on the mound for game one, the Glenwood offense had to pick him up after the top of the second inning when the Storm manufactured a run as a bloop single to lead off the inning fell just over the outstretched glove of Glenwood junior second baseman Herb Byers of the University of Sioux Falls. An errant pick-off throw from Gulick to junior first baseman Anthony Rosario of Rochester (Minnesota) Community College allowed the Steamboat runner to race all the way around to third base, putting a runner in scoring position with nobody out.
Two batters later the Storm got on the scoreboard as a sacrifice fly to right field made it 1-0 Storm.
But much like it has all year, the Geckos’ offense caught fire in the middle innings, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second inning, four in the third and three in the sixth to cap off the win.
In the bottom of the second inning, redshirt senior catcher Brian Magana of Azusa Pacific mashed a one-out double to left-center that just missed clearing the fence by mere feet, giving the Geckos a great opportunity to tie the game.
Serving as a courtesy runner for Magana, junior infielder Robert Cardona of Alfred State University stole third base before scoring on a one-out single up the middle from junior infielder Stewart Maes of the University of Sioux Falls, tying the game at one.
Junior outfielder and former Roaring Fork Rams standout Tanner Nieslanik — who will head to Colorado Mesa University this fall — grounded a single through the hole between first and second, putting runners at first and third with just one out.
Junior outfielder Honorio Pena of Mount Saint Vincent University then followed with a single up the middle to drive in Maes, giving the Geckos a 2-1 lead.
Following a quick top of the third inning by Gulick, the Geckos came to the plate looking to tack on more, starting with Billinger, who blooped a single down the rightfield line. Sophomore infielder Tate Spivey of Blue Mountain Community College followed with a base on balls before Rosario lashed a ground-rule double over the fence in right-center, driving in Billinger to make it 3-1 Geckos.
Magana then chipped in with his second hit of the game, smoking a single up the middle to drive in Spivey and Rosario, pushing the Geckos’ lead to 5-1.
Two batters later Cardona — again running for Magana — trotted home on an error by the Steamboat third baseman, capping off the four-run inning for Glenwood.
With a large lead, Gulick went to work, allowing just three more runs the rest of the game while striking out just one hitter along the way before giving way to sophomore pitcher John Schultz of Oregon Tech University.
The towering lefty worked through the final one and two thirds innings to seal the win for the Geckos.
Billinger hit his fifth homerun of the season — a no-doubt bomb to left field that landed some 50 yards beyond the fence, capping off the Glenwood win in style.
In game two, former Glenwood Springs ace pitcher Chase Nieslanik — a redshirt freshman at the University of Nebraska-Kearney — took to the mound looking to finish off the sweep of the Storm, but the former Demon ran into some trouble, working through just four innings, walking five, allowing two runs and striking out just three in the four-run loss.
Maes came on in relief of Nieslanik and worked two and two thirds innings, allowing four runs with two outs in his last inning of work.
Jackson Hokuf from Fullerton (California) College came on in relief in the final inning to get the last out of the Geckos.
With pitching struggling throughout game two, the offense couldn’t carry the load as usual, recording just six hits as Cooper Goldby from Lewis & Clark College recorded two hits (double and single), while Billinger added two hits (single and double) in the loss.
The Geckos will travel to Summit, Thursday, for an afternoon doubleheader looking to add onto its league-leading record.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.