Three Rivers Juniors take District title
By G. Sean Kelly
EL JEBEL – The Three Rivers Junior team coasted through its first two games of the District 1 Little League Tournament, winning by margins of six and 10 runs. Saturday’s championship contest against Orchard Mesa was a different story – it was a battle.
And, as often happens in tight games, a couple of players stepped out of the shadows to key a 9-7 victory and secure the District 1 crown for the Three Rivers All-Stars.
With Three Rivers trailing 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning, the All-Stars mounted a five-run, two-out rally to take a 6-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Key to the rally were the bats of Ben Pollack and Matt Miller, both reserves who came off the bench. Following an errant throw to first that allowed one Three Rivers run to score, Pollack and Miller notched back-to-back RBI singles to keep the rally alive and even the score at 4-all. Kyle Raaflaub put the finishing touches on the comeback with a two-RBI single to center field to give Three Rivers a 6-4 lead.
“I really want to commend Miller and Pollack,” Three Rivers coach T.J. Joiner said. “They were both subs today and they kept that rally going.”
Miller finished the game 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, while Pollack was 1-for-1 with the RBI.
Three Rivers added three more runs in the top of the sixth inning for a 9-4 advantage, but it nearly proved to be not enough.
Orchard Mesa tallied two runs in the sixth inning and had the tying run at the plate in the seventh and final inning, but, as he did all game, pitcher Jake Bowman was able to pitch his way out of trouble.
With one runner on and one out, Bubba Cruz hit a chopper up the middle that tipped off Bowman’s glove and allowed the baserunner to advance and Cruz to reach safely. Following a Bowman balk, Orchard Mesa’s Kyle Grandbouche slapped a sacrifice ground out to cut the lead to 9-7, but Bowman was able to entice Tyler Grandbouche into flyout to right field to net the win.
“I was thinking, `Oh my god, I’ve got to pitch good to the next batter,'” said Bowman of the play allowing Cruz to reach.
Bowman had a solid game, although erratic at times. He finished with 11 strikeouts, while giving up eight hits and eight walks.
“I couldn’t get it over the plate for a little bit,” Bowman said, “but the team backed me up.”
“It was a little bit ugly, but we won it,” Joiner said. “Jake did what he needed to do to win.”
Both teams missed multiple scoring opportunities early, with Orchard Mesa loading the bases in the first inning and Three Rivers doing the same in the second inning. Neither team came was able to scratch the scoreboard.
Three Rivers did put up a run in the top of the third, only to have Orchard Mesa plate a pair of runners in the bottom of the frame. Orchard Mesa extended its lead to 4-1 with two runs in the fourth inning and it wasn’t until the fifth that the Three Rivers batters were able mount any serious offense against Orchard Mesa pitcher Tyler Grandbouche, who was pulled one out into the sixth inning.
“We just had two great games, and it was time to have one that wasn’t as good as we wanted,” Joiner added. “I guess good teams can win without playing their best game.”
The District title qualifies Three Rivers for a spot in the five day state tournament to be held in Aurora at the Arapahoe Little League Complex.
Three Rivers, which has never won a game at state, opens against the District 3 champion at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Our goal is going to state and winning it,” Joiner said. “We’re not satisfied with just going.”
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