GARRETT — Garrett was the same hustling, scrapping team Railroader baseball fans came to love all season.
The problem was it took a couple of innings to settle in against a powerhouse Leo team, and the Lions didn’t wait around.
Leo scored seven times in the first two innings, and rode ace pitcher Coley Stevens from there in a 10-1 win over host Garrett in the Class 3A sectional semi-finals May 29.
Two days later, the Lions (28-3) defeated Bishop Luers 6-2 to win the sectional title.
Two walks, two wild pitches and an errant pickoff throw, combined with doubles by Damien Gudakunst and Stevens, led to a five-run first inning for Leo. Stevens came up again in the second and delivered a two-out, two-run single, and Leo was up 7-0 after two innings.
“We got behind the eight-ball. A little too tight, probably,” Garrett coach Jason Richards said. “This was a big game, and a lot of these kids haven’t played a big game like this, and last year off, too.”
Stevens scattered seven hits in a complete game win and struck out nine. He was also the Lions’ offensive star, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. Gudakunst finished 3-for-3.
Garrett, which finished at 18-9, had multiple runners aboard in the first, third and fifth innings, but couldn’t break through until a heads-up baserunning play by Blake Ratcliffe in the fifth. The Big Train loaded the bases with one out, when a pop-up invoked the infield fly rule.
The ball was barely fair along the first-base line and was dropped, but the batter was out automatically. The Lions left the plate unguarded for a moment, however, and Ratcliffe alertly dashed home from third for Garrett’s only run.
The Railroaders loaded the bases again in the seventh before Stevens induced a game-ending force out.
“We’ve had a lot of comeback wins this year, and they just never stop,” Richards said. “Even at the end, we’re down 10-1 and we still load them up. We gave ourselves a chance to keep doing it. I just love that fight in them.
“I’m extremely proud to be their coach.”
Trey Richards went 3-for-4 for Garrett including a double.
Freshman Luke Holcomb relieved starter Graham Kelham after two innings for the Railroaders, and gave them four strong innings of relief. He limited Leo to five hits and the three runs scored against him were unearned.
“He’s a freshman, that’s the best part,” coach Richards said. “We’ll see him three more years. He did a good job. Graham started off, and they’re a good team. They’re going to hit the ball. We’ve got Graham another year, too.”