Through their past seven games, Canon City's baseball team has outscored opponents 78-14 on the way to a midseason winning streak.
But despite the Tigers’ 11 runs-per-game average in April, it’s the close games - like Thursday’s 5-3 win at Widefield - that coach Tim Ritter looks for to build his team’s character and prepare for the postseason.
“When you win like this, the game keeps you levelheaded. We are not doing anything great, we are finding ways to win that’s always a positive,” Ritter said. “But we are a blue-collar team and we can’t take anything for granted. It’s easy when everyone is hitting and you’re beating a team by 10, but when it’s a close game, that’s when you see who is ready to come out and perform.”
The Tigers were forced to come from behind in Thursday’s 4A CSML clash - trailing for more than a half inning for the first time in six games.
Canon City’s ace Tristan Beicker got the nod against Widefield, but he struggled to settle down after the Gladiators took a 2-0 lead in the first three innings, and was relieved by Zac Hanenberg in the fourth - and the Tigers got rolling from there.
Hanenberg retired the side in order with two strikeouts, and stranded a Widefield runner in scoring position, paving the way for a Canon City takeover.
“I think any time you come in and shut them down it gets the team going and some momentum going when we come up to bat,” Hanenberg said.
It took just 15 minutes from when Hanenberg took the mound for the Tigers to eliminate their two-run deficit, and take the lead.
Fly outs put two outs on the board in the top of the fifth, but a walk put Hanenberg on base, and up came slugger Kadin Porter.
Porter, who scored in the fourth thanks to an RBI single by Andrew Lapp, smacked a triple 300 feet into center field to score Hanenberg. And with a crack in the floodgates, Lincoln Andrews opened them up with a deep double to take a 3-2 lead.
“As soon as we hit the tying run in I just think we started to relax a little bit and we started swinging the bat a little better,” Ritter said.
Canon City scored in the each of the final four innings. All of the Tigers’ runs came across with two outs.
Porter Andrews, Shane Coffey, Lapp and Ben Marushack had an RBI each. Porter's courtesy runner Jacob Whitney scored three times.
Hanenberg allowed no hits through four innings and struck out four batters.
Widefield starter Brennan Heitz had a solid outing through six innings, especially early on as he kept Canon City sluggers on their heels.
His three strikeouts came in the first three innings as the Tigers struggled to find their footing in the box. Widefield's defense retired Canon City in order twice.
“(Heitz) worked the plate very well today, probably one of his best games in and out,” Widefield coach John Sanchez said. “But Canon City is a good team. You almost have to play flawless in order to beat them, and we did for about five innings.”
Elijah Clark earned the Gladiators’ only earned run with a single in the third to score Heitz.