After a tough three innings, the Dolores Bears baseball team used a three-hit, six-run fourth to turn a one-run lead into six en route to a 12-2 win over Dove Creek in six innings Tuesday afternoon at Joe Rowell Park.
Dolores (8-3, 3-0 2A San Juan Basin League) has won five straight games and is poised to defend its SJBL regular-season title.
However, Dove Creek (1-10, 1-2 1A SJBL) was not intimated by its rival early on and took a 1-0 lead in the first inning behind hits from first baseman Billy Ray Howell and catcher Dalton Davis.
In the bottom half, the Bears bounced back with two runs. Catcher Simon Condon led off with a single and later came home when left fielder Ryan Greene belted an RBI-double to left center field. Pitcher Byron Crites sent Greene home the next at bat with an RBI-single to take a 2-1 lead.
Crites and Bulldogs pitcher Dalton Randolph held serve in the second-inning and didnt allow any runs.
In the bottom of the third, shortstop Tyler Underwood sent Condon home from third off a sacrifice-fly to right field, and Dolores led 3-1.
The Bulldogs chipped away in the top of the fourth after Howell led off with a single and Davis smacked one to left field that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double. By rule, Howell could only advance to third base from first, instead of going home. But center fielder Jeff Sparks got the sac-fly the next at bat and Howell scored to make it 3-2. With Davis on third, left fielder John Dees struck out and second baseman Jagger Watkins popped up to end the inning with Davis stranded.
The Bears took control in the bottom of the fourth. The first three in the batting rotation got on base, and right fielder Tanner Cumpton sent two home with an RBI-single to go up 5-2. Condon then grounded to third baseman Tyson Smith, but an errant throw to second base allowed Cumpton to safely make it, and the bases were loaded again. Third baseman Austin McCracken stepped to the plate and got his first hit with an RBI-single that scored two more. Underwood and Greene added sac-flies, and the lead was all of a sudden 9-2 going into the fifth.
This has been the outcome all year. We have one bad inning every game, Dove Creek coach Ken Soper said. This is typical. We always have that one bad inning that kills us. We got to get over that.
The Bulldogs werent able to get over that hump on Tuesday. Howell hit another single in the top of the sixth, but that would be the last team hit.
In the bottom of the sixth, Underwood got his first hit with an RBI-single scoring two runs and Greene got the winning sac-fly RBI to end the game in a 10-run, mercy rule.
Crites got his first win of the season on the mound, pitching a complete six innings while striking out seven.
It took us a while to get going. It just seems like pitchers that dont have much velocity; weve struggled. We were swinging at dirt balls, and it cost us for about three innings, Bears coach Jim Everin said. Finally, we just started hitting the ball hard and putting it in play, and things kind of came our way. We need to be consistent and start playing seven innings of baseball.
Greene and Condon were consistent at the plate, hitting three-for-four. Greene had three RBIs, and Underwood had a game-high of four.
Our base problem is that everyone just wants to go yard. We just need to start playing as a team, Condon said. The only home run hitter on our team is Ryan (Greene). Everybody just needs to start hitting for base hits, so they can get on and Ryan can knock them in. We just need to focus getting on base because thats what wins ball games.
Team consistency is a major focus for Dolores, especially finishing up the regular season strong going into the district tournament.
Were all just focused on improving ourselves as individuals and improving as a team these games, so by the time we get to districts and regionals, and hopefully state, well be ready, Condon said.
Howell led Dove Creek going 3-for-3 at the plate, and Davis was 2-for-3.
I thought our kids played better today than they have in the past. Theyre improving, Soper said. I thought our hitting was better. Even though it wasnt great, it was better. That kid (Crites) threw faster, I thought, than the Nucla pitcher. We couldnt hit the Nucla pitcher.
One thing lacking with Dove Creek pitching is the ability to throw a change-up, Soper said.
Dolores will host Nucla in a doubleheader at Joe Rowell Park on Friday at 1 and 3 p.m.
Dove Creek is at Ignacio on Saturday for a doubleheader at 10 a.m. and noon.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com.