by nathan oster
Greybull did not disappoint in its first appearance in 31 years at the State Babe Ruth Tournament, winning two of three in pool play and knocking off a quality Rawlins team before losing to Cody in the championship game last week in Gillette.
The Geckos, who finished with a 17-9 record, were among the younger teams entered in the tournament. Their state roster included seven 15-year-olds, two 14-year-olds, three 13-year-olds and a 12-year old.
That didn’t seem to limit them in Gillette, however. The team opened with a bang, defeating a Powell team that had their number during the regular season — but that Coach Joe Forcella knew they could beat.
In Gillette, they rode the right arm of Calder Forcella to a 6-3 win. Forcella went the distance, scattering three hits and striking eight in seven innings to pick up the win.
Calder Forcella also led the Gecko offense with a pair of hits, although his brother Dawson was credited with Greybull’s only two runs batted in.
“Our kids kept their composure,” said Forcella. “We had a few errors, but kids didn’t hang their heads. They just turned around and made up for it on the next play.
“Between Calder pitching and Dawson catching, baserunners were held tight. We threw kids out at every base as they tried to steal.”
After that big win, the Geckos suffered a letdown in their second pool game against Torrington, losing 14-4 after surrendering 10 runs in the first two innings.
Kade Osborne was tagged for the loss, surrendering all eight of Torrington’s runs in the first and second innings.
The Greybull offense didn’t mount a serious threat after that, although Dawson Forcella again carried the heavy lumber with two RBIs.
“I had told the other coaches I was going to really work on staying cam, but that didn’t last long,” Forcella said. “I knew we were the better team, and to watch them throw a slow pitcher at us and see our kids pop up because we were trying too hard just about killed me.”
Dusty Hill, an assistant coach, was credited with righting the team’s emotional ship after the game — and setting the stage for a do-or-die clash with Gillette on Friday night.
The Geckos went with Forcella, who again rose to meet the challenge, giving up just four hits and striking out nine in the 5-4 Greybull victory.
Osborne got the Geckos on the board with a long home run to right field, but the game wasn’t decided until the seventh inning.
The game was tied 4-4 at the time.
“I told Skylar Thomas he was going to win this game for us,” said Forcella. “He got a good hit up the middle. Our young kids then stepped up with confidence as Riley moved him around with a hit and then Cade Dooley advanced him to third on a walk.
“With the bases loaded, no outs and Justin Bacus up, we waited for the perfect pitch, and when one went in the dirt, we didn’t mess around. We played to win it, and gambled on the steal of home with Skylar. Skylar later told me it was the most intense moment of his life.”
With the win, the Geckos advanced to a semifinal matchup against Rawlins. After winning the coin toss, the Geckos chose to be the visitors, hoping that they would be able to push a couple of runs across to put pressure on their opponents.
In perhaps the biggest start of his career, Zack Zeller shined, going the full seven innings, striking out six and surrendering just two runs, both unearned, in the 4-2 Greybull win.
It took some late heroics to seal the deal, however. Rawlins, a team with a reputation for coming from behind, immediately put two runners aboard in the bottom of the seventh — and had the winning run at the plate when Cade Dooley turned in the play of the game.
The 13-year-old, who was playing right field, made a diving catch, jumped up to show the umpire that he caught it and proceeded to fire it to first to double off the runner, who had strayed too far from the bag. Zeller capped off the improbable finish by picking off the Rawlins runner at second, ending the game.
Dawson Forcella had three hits, Calder Forcella had two hits and two RBIs and Thomas produced two hits of his own to lead the Greybull attack.
“It was something to look at those kids (after the game) and realize we had just made the championship game.”
In it, the Geckos ran into an old rival in Cody, a team they had not beaten all season. That trend continued, as Cody posted the 4-1 win to advance to the next round of the tournament in Washington.
Calder Forcella took the loss, despite giving up just four runs in seven innings of work. Greybull was credited with only three hits, with Zeller, Calder Forcella and Bacus having those.
Forcella tipped his hat to the victors.
“We had the utmost respect for Cody,” he said. “They are a good team and were good sports. They cheered for us during the tournament and losing to them was not a shame.”
Greybull actually led 1-0 early before Cody’s bats awoke.
Of the tournament, Forcella said it was “a team achievement. Riley Hill made some great stops and throws at third. Treston Tracy stepped his game up and caught some crucial foul balls from first. Wyatt Nielson came up with some big plays in the outfield. Dante Sylvester was ready at the drop of a hat to help us anywhere and in anyway — from playing second to jumping in as a pinch runner. Justin Bacus played well all-round regardless of the position he was assigned. Chad Cross (Worland) helped us out at second before sustaining an injury against Gillette.
“We won as a team and we lost as a team and I am so proud with what we accomplished. We made a little history this weekend. Hopefully this experience will carry over into high school sports and teach our kids that they can accomplish anything if they believe in the system.”