ALMA — Northwest twice rallied back from deficits and twice took leads in the late innings, but could not hold off Santa Fe, falling 11-9 in the Class 1 baseball sectional on Monday.
The Chiefs scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to re-take the lead and take the win. A Truman Sleeper single scored pitcher Keaton Graf to tie the game 9-9. After a groundout and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with two out, Sleeper scored from third on a double steal. A bases-loaded hit-batsman scored the final run.
In the top of the seventh, Graf struck out all three Mustangs he faced to end the game.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” said Northwest coach Justin Wiskur. “We just couldn’t make a few plays we needed to close it out.”
Northwest had taken an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the fourth before a two-run homer from Wyatt Wilkinson brought Santa Fe to within one and a series of Northwest errors led to another run. Northwest committed seven errors in the game, including two in the three-run Santa Fe first inning and two in the two-run third.
“Clearly we didn’t play our best defense,” Wiskur said. “At the end of the day, that’s really what hurt us in this game.”
The Chiefs sent eight men to the plate in the top of the first and took a 3-0 lead with Santa Fe starter Ben Hinz shutting down the Mustangs early. He walked the lead-off man in the first, then struck out the next two and forced a groundout to end the inning. In the second, two strikeouts and a grounder to first set the Mustangs down one-two-three.
But in the third, Northwest broke through. Freshman rightfielder Daniel Blaylock led off the inning with a solo home run to left-center, his first of the year. A few batters later, Trey Green followed a Ryan Rafferty single with a two-run homer to right-center to tie the game.
“The first time through the order, until Daniel Blaylock came up, I saw us pressing a little bit,” Wiskur said. “Guys were so anxious to hit the ball, we’re swinging at bad pitches, we’re getting out in front of it. We just weren’t having a good approach. Then Daniel’s home run really sparked us offensively and brought us new life.”
Santa Fe jumped back in front with two runs in the bottom of the third. With two on and two out, Dalton Bargfrede hit a grounder to third. The throw pulled Mustang first-baseman Chandler Crosswhite off the bag. He attempted to swipe his arm back to tag Bargfrede, however the ball popped out of his glove when it hit the Chiefs batter and both runs scored.
Northwest came back with a five-run fourth inning. Matthew Locke reached on a dropped third strike and scored on an error with two out as Garren Powell reached. The next batter was Truman Leicher who hit a towering flyball to center, but two Cheifs outfielders collided on the play and Powell scored from first. Green followed with a double to drive in two more runs and he scored on a Cortlen Austin single.
After a three-run bottom of the third tied the game 8-8, Northwest again took the lead in the top of the sixth when Alex Brockman set down a bunt on a squeeze play to score Green.
Leicher pitched three innings in relief for the Mustangs and was credited with the loss, allowing four runs on four hits, walking one and striking out two.
He came on after Wilkinson’s homer in the fourth. The first batter he faced singled, then scored on a pair of errors as Ty Bell stood on third with the go-ahead run with no one out. But the next two batters grounded to short as Austin looked Bell back to the bag before throwing the batter out. The next batter flew out to center to end the inning.
In the fifth, Leicher worked around a two-out single and in the sixth, the three-run inning could have been worse as the Chiefs loaded the bases before a grounder to third ended the inning.
“Truman’s thrown lights out for us this year,” Wiskur said. “He’s now 6-1, he was 6-0 coming into this game. He can be wildly effective. He hadn’t walked a lot of guys this year but his pitch count can get up there because he works a lot of full counts. He gets them fishing.”
Northwest finishes the season 15-8, winning a second consecutive district title and falling to Santa Fe in the sectional for the second year in a row.