Apr 21, 2014 10:00 AM by Posted by Greg Smith
MONUMENT - A 10-strikeout outing from pitcher Paul Tillotson gave No. 6 Lewis-Palmer a two-game lead in league play as the Rangers (11-3, 9-0) beat rival Palmer Ridge 2-1 in Class 4A baseball action Saturday.
Tillotson, the staff's ace, went 6 1/3 innings giving up only a single earned run also accounted for the tying run in the bottom of the fourth. Bears pitcher Kurt Larson kept pace with Tilloston as he struck out 10 of his own and only allowed nine base runners all game.
Behind Larson, it was the tenth-ranked Bears (10-4, 8-2) who stuck first. With two outs and runners on the corners in the first inning, Jake Weems singled into right field bringing home what would prove to be their only run of the game.
With the way Larson was dealing on the mound, it looked like that one run might be able to hold off the Rangers. But with runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, a routine groundball to Bears shortstop Jack Stamper would bring about the downfall for Palmer Ridge. Stamper fielded the ball cleanly, but a bad throw got by first baseman Cassen Minarick allowed both runners to score, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
"What do they say? ‘You take it any you can,'" Rangers coach Tom McCabe said. "Our belief and our gameplan is to put the ball in play hard and force the other to play defense. I'm real big on no strikeouts so we have to put the ball in play."
Lewis-Palmer had a chance to extend its lead in the bottom of the sixth inning after loading the bases with two outs. Vinny Nall put a solid swing on the ball and ripped a line drive to right field, but it was caught by Jake Grubesic, taking the game to the seventh and final inning with the Bears trailing by one.
After throwing six solid innings, Tillotson convinced McCabe to go back out in the seventh to try and sew up the win for the Rangers. McCabe had kept a close a eye on Tillotson's pitch count starting in the fifth and had toyed with the idea of diving into his bullpen. But in the end, he had enough faith in his sophomore ace to give him the chance to close it out.
"He's been throwing all winter so he's (capable of throwing) up to 100 pitches," McCabe said. "When our guys get to 80 we starting looking and start watching real close. He said he felt good so we gave him two more batters."
After a quick out to start the inning, he gave up a base hit to Billy Schulze who would move into scoring position on a passed ball. Stamper then singled to put runners on the corners with one out, ending Tillotson's day.
McCabe then turned to Colin Cicere - who is scheduled to start Tuesday at Palmer Ridge - to get the last two outs of the inning. Cicere walked Cole Hurford to load the bases before striking out Carter Thorne and inducing a ground ball to shortstop Ben Stinson to finish the inning, giving the Rangers the win.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Colin," Tillotson said. "I know Colin, he's a great guy, a pitching fanatic and I knew he would come in and (be) good."
The two Pikes Peak league rivals will meet again Tuesday, this time on Palmer Ridge's home field. Now facing a two game deficit in the standings, the pressure is on the Bears to even the season series and maintain a shot at winning a league title.
"I believe this was the key game," McCabe said. "The pressure lies on them now. They have to us. I'm hoping we go into Palmer Ridge the way we stressed to the boys, nice and loose and able to execute our game plan. It was big for us to win here at home and relieve some of the pressure."