DENVER — He shook his catcher off in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the bases loaded, one strike away from winning a title.
It was a moment born from dreams: Two strikes, two outs, in the final inning. And Colin Hobbs, a junior from Dove Creek, knew exactly what he wanted to do.
"I like my curveball a lot," Hobbs said on Friday night. "It's my strikeout pitch so I like to throw it with two strikes."
"I gave him the fastball," said Alex Ogas, Hobbs' catcher, "and he shook his head and he just started laughing. I knew, right then. Once I gave him the signal, I knew."
Hobbs got Granada's Jose Rodriges to strike out swinging. Moments later, he, Ogas and the rest of the Dove Creek Bulldogs were throwing their gloves into the crisp Denver air. They'd won the Class 1A baseball title, defeating Granada 8-5 at All-City Field.
"They hung tight," said Curtis Garver, Dove Creek's coach.
See, Dove Creek had a singular focus this season. It was almost exactly one year ago to the day that they'd lost the 1A title game to Caliche, and watched another team throw their gloves into the air.
As the 2015 season opened, they struggled somewhat, starting 1-4, and finishing the regular season 8-11.
"All throughout the season, we took our lumps, we took our lumps, and we identified what was wrong with our game," Ogas said. "We were able to adapt it right at the beginning of the playoffs."
"We were a little sour after last year," Garver said. "We wanted to come back and prove that we belonged here."
Saturday was a day some in Dove Creek thought might never come — not only because of the road the Bulldogs took to get here, but because of multiple reschedules and headaches due to weather. It was only on Thursday that the title game was formally rescheduled for Saturday night.
The uncertainly didn't faze Dove Creek one bit.
"This is the state championship, so everybody was really focused," Ogas said. "It was really easy for us to stay prepared. It didn't take too much out of us. It really didn't. We were mostly scared about it raining today."
"We were ready all day long," said Dove Creek's Jordan Ernst.
The rain, mercifully, held off on Saturday. And Dove Creek soon seized control of the title game. The Bulldogs grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the third, and just kept adding to it. Soon, it was 7-0 going to the bottom of sixth.
Ernst, Dove Creek's star who earlier this season threw a five-inning perfect game in which he struck out every batter he faced, was magnificent to that point. He didn't allow a hit until the bottom of the fourth, and ended up with eight strikeouts in five-plus innings of work.
But, in the sixth, Granada loaded the bases, and finally pushed a run across on a walk.
Dove Creek turned to Hobbs, who has been their go-to reliever this season. He struck out the first two batters he faced, but then walked two others. It was 7-3 at that point.
Then, Granada's Davey Reyez lined a ball that seemed destined for the right-center gap, but Dove Creek second baseman Kyle Schultz snared the liner to end the threat.
The Bulldogs added a run in the top of the seventh, but Granada would not go quietly into the night. The Bobcats got one back in the bottom half, then loaded the bases. Soon, the score was 8-5 with just one out.
With Granada's Dalton Harris up, Hobbs threw a breaking ball in the dirt, but Ogas made a great block to keep it in front of him — and keep the runners where they stood. Hobbs went on to strike Harris out.
With two outs, and the title in sight, Hobbs quickly got two strikes on Rodriges. It was then that Ogas called for the fastball, which, of course, Hobbs shook off. He threw his curveball instead. And ended the game.
Hobbs was asked afterward if the two bases-loaded jams from which he escaped got to him. "A little bit," he said. "It was not too bad." Then he added with a wry smile, "I got out of them."
The title is Dove Creek's third. The school also won Class A (West) championships in 1977 and 1975 when it was then Dolores County. But this one was sweeter than most because of the loss last year.
"We've been fighting through — even like Little League, we've been going to the state tournaments, and we always come up short," Ernst said. "We finally made it. After probably 10 years, we finally made it to the top."