by nathan oster
South Big Horn Little League saw both of its teams place among the top four at an intraleague tournament last week in Powell, as Greybull Building Center reeled off three straight wins to capture the title while Big Horn Federal rode an upset win over a No. 1 seed from Powell to a fourth-place finish.
The tournament attracted eight teams and by the end of the opening round, the only four still standing were the ones from Big Horn County. Two teams from Powell, one from north Big Horn County and the Otto Rattlers were all sent packing on the first day.
GBC got the job done with solid pitching and timely hitting.
With pitch counts factoring into each team’s strategy, GBC capitalized on an overmatched Otto team in the opening round. The game was called after four innings due to the 10-run rule, with GBC on top 14-2.
Coby Henderson started and pitched into the third inning before giving way to Tyler DeGraw, who took it the rest of the way.
“Playing only four innings, that really helped us,” said Mark Sanford, one of the team’s coaches. “We were able to set up our pitchers for the rest of the tournament.”
Big Horn Federal, winners of only one game during the regular season, didn’t have that luxury. Facing a top seed from Powell, the Cardinals, Big Horn Fed went with its ace, Davis Wrage, and he came up big.
Wrage gave up two runs in the first inning but settled down after that, shutting out the Cardinals in the second, third and fourth innings. By the time he’d reached his 85-pitch limit, Big Horn Fed was well on its way. Irving Castro got the final two outs of the 13-3 win.
Wrage had a pair of hits and scored three runs. Isaac Gaytan was also credited with three runs scored. Dante Terry had one of the game’s biggest hits, a double that plated three runs.
The wins set the stage for a semifinal clash between the two teams on Thursday evening.
GBC went with Carlos Rodriguez while Big Horn Federal countered with Castro.
GBC started quickly, plating two in the first, two more in the second and a single run in the third. Rodriguez had one of the run-scoring hits. So, too, did Grace Sanford. Heading into the fifth, GBC led 6-1.
“We should have scored a lot more runs than we did,” said Sanford. “A couple times, we left the bases loaded. Once we had the bases loaded with no one out and scored only one run.”
Big Horn Federal began chipping away at the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, plating two runs off Sanford, who had relieved Rodriguez. Those two runs made it 6-3.
GBC didn’t score in the top of the sixth, so Big Horn Federal needed went into its final at-bat needing three to tie, four to win. The inning started promisingly for Big Horn Federal, as the first two batters, Wrage and Castro, reached base and eventually came around to score, making it 6-5.
Big Horn Federal had the tying run on second base with one out when GBC went to its bullpen, summoning Henderson. After walking his first batter, Henderson got the next two, including the final one on a strikeout with the tying and winning runs in scoring position, to put out the fire and send GBC into the final.
“He settled down and did a great job for us,” said Sanford.
After Castro, Big Horn Federal used Terry and Cale Wright. The latter blanked GBC over the final two innings to give Big Horn Fed a shot in the final inning.
After an off-day on Thursday, the two Greybull teams ventured back to Powel on Friday for their final games.
For the title, GBC faced the Lovell Indians, who had upset the top-seeded and unbeaten Lovell Nationals in the semis. It was no contest. In fact, the Indians didn’t know it, but it was over when coaches handed the ball to Rodriguez.
With a full 85 pitches to use, he needed only 81 to set down all 18 Indian batters he faced in a 5-0, title-clinching perfect game that went the full six innings. Rodriguez struck out 15 batters. Only three batters managed to put the ball in play — and all three were put out at first base.
Sanford called it a total team effort offensively. Among the contributors were Juan Acuna, Eric Rosales, Kevin Rosales, Hayden Paxton and Titus Nicholson. While they all hit toward the bottom of the lineup, they were instrumental in igniting one of the rallies, said Sanford.
Big Horn Federal didn’t fare as well on the other field, as the Nationals regrouped after their loss to the Indians to pummel the Bandits 10-0. The game was called after the third due to the 10-run rule.
With the minors not attending a tounament and the juniors wrapping up their season last week, the two games played by the Greybull teams on Friday marked the end of the Little League season in south Big Horn County.
Some players from the south have tried out for positions on the all-star team that will represent Big Horn County in the sanctioned Little League tournament that started in July.
Ken Wright, who organized the league again this year, called it a successful season.
One-hundred thirty kids played this year.
“I’m thankful for all the support we received from individuals and businesses,” said Wright. “We couldn’t do this without them.”