LAKIN — A week out from regional playoffs, good baseball teams like to get in some quality games.
Such was the case for two of the area’s top squads, as Holcomb traveled to Lakin for one game against the Broncs in a triangular with Cimarron.
The home team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Longhorns in a 6-4, seven-inning game.
Hunter Kirby faced 32 of the 33 Holcomb batters, hitting spots, giving up just two hits and striking out nine, including four times to end an inning.
His team, however, committed six errors, including three in the fourth inning that led to a 2-0 Holcomb lead.
But Lakin answered in the bottom of the fourth with six runs of its own.
Starting pitcher Chance Rodriguez, in only his second action after knee surgery after wrestling season, had cruised through the first three innings with giving up four infield hits and no runs.
But he started the fourth by hitting Logan Gugelmeyer, then walking Johnney Perez and giving up a bunt to Diego Davila to load the bases with no outs.
Sophomore Hadley Panzer came up next and drilled a long double to plate all three runners.
A Jace Bachman single and walk to leadoff hitter Kayden Christiansen chased Rodriguez and brought in River Amos with the bases loaded.
Amos, normally a starter, hit Kirby to score a fourth run, and catcher Dawsen Shalberg sent two more runners home with a single for a 6-2 lead.
Amos settled down and held the Broncs scoreless the rest of the game.
Holcomb scored a run in the sixth. Two walks and another Lakin error closed the gap to 6-3.
In the seventh, Kirby got the first two batters out before walking Paden Cornelson, who then stole second.
He scored on another Lakin error, bringing in Gugelmeyer for the save.
Amos was caught stealing and Lakin left the field a winner.
For longtime Lakin coach Steve Davidson, it was a contrast between the good and the bad as his team improved to 14-3.
Good for the pitching performance and the run explosion.
Bad in the number of errors and the lack of run production over the course of the game.
“We still gave some runs up but made enough plays to get the win,” he said. “We put the ball in play enough. At this level, you put the ball in play.”
Lakin had runners on the bags in every inning. That was a plus.
They only scored in one inning, though, and that was a concern.
“I want to score one or two runs every inning, and we’d be in pretty good shape,” Davidson said. “When we scored those six, we still had second (and) third with nobody out and didn’t get those guys in.”
Lakin had opportunities in the early innings and couldn’t plate any runs.
“We had the right guys up there. We just didn’t get the hits we needed to,” he added.
Errors were an issue too, Davidson said.
“When you make that first mistake, after that it becomes mental. We start thinking too much, making bad throws,” he said. “We’ve just got to cut that out. One error’s okay, but when you make two or three on the same play, and we did that a couple of times. We just have to have confidence and make plays. That’s all it is.”
But one consistent for the Broncs this season has been solid pitching, and they definitely got that from Kirby in game one (and from Gugelmeyer in a 15-0 win over Cimarron in the night’s final game).
“He pitched a really good game,” Davidson said of Kirby’s performance. “Last couple times out, he’s been throwing; he hasn’t been pitching as well. But he pitched a good game, changing speeds and throwing the breaking ball, doing the right things. He pitched a really good game.”
For first-year coach Landon Lukens, Holcomb’s performance showed that his team can compete with good teams.
“A few hard hits one way or another for us, and it could have gone a different way at the end,” he said. “But I’m proud of our boys for competing.”
He had Rodriguez on a low pitch count in just his second outing.
“I think he maybe went five or 10 too many and got tired,” Lukens said. “But he wanted to compete, and I’m good with that.”
He also limited Rodriguez on fielding balls, as a precaution, he added, and the Broncs got on base once or twice because of that, but that was to be expected.
Lakin (15-3) will host a triangular with Southwestern Heights and Scott City on Thursday, both of whom are in the Lakin regional next week.
Holcomb (13-5), which defeated Cimarron 15-3 in the second game, will host Spearvillle Thursday.
They host the Class 4A-II regional beginning May 15. They compete with Pratt, Larned and Hugoton.