DENVER — In a way, the second Trenton Armintrout took the mound for the Class 1A baseball state title game, Nucla had it won.
"His name is pretty well-known there," Nucla second baseman Devyn Rummel said. "Their coach has been talking to our coach about what they think of Armintrout, so I think he had them mentally more than anything."
But just in case, Armintrout followed through with his actions. He threw five and 2/3 innings striking out seven hitters while only allowing two hits. He was masterful and as a result Nucla beat Holly 8-4 to claim the school's first baseball title.
"It's so sweet," coach Randy Gabriel said. "I told them we played our best baseball the last two weeks. We played great defense and we played a brutal schedule early in the year."
But it paid off for the Mustangs (13-9 overall).
The game started slow overall, with neither team able to generate a lot of offense. The Mustangs stranded five runners in the first four innings and had three other runners get caught in no man's land while trying to be aggressive on the bases.
"We made some bone-headed moves," Gabriel said. "I had one of their fans heckle me. He yelled 'keep sending them, coach' and I didn't send of them, he went on his own."
They finally hit pay dirt in the fifth inning. With one out, Rummel ripped a ball down the right field line for a triple. Will Gabriel then hit a ground ball to first base, but Willard Kennedy couldn't get the throw home in time and the scoreless tie was broken.
"I was just waiting to break the ice," Rummel said. "We did it last week too. We went pretty far into the game shut out and once we finally broke the ice, we kept rolling."
The Mustangs scored six in the fifth inning. Suddenly the Wildcats (13-3) had their backs against the wall. A lead in hand also Armintrout one very important thing, especially as the lead only grew.
"Confidence," he said. "Confidence throughout each inning. The team kept me up whenever I started throwing balls. They kept me going."
He didn't give up a hit until the third inning and was his defense helped him out of a big jam in the fourth. With one out and the bases loaded, Will Gabriel fielded a ground ball and touched first before firing home to Cord Colson.
Colson applied the take to Brandon Wilson and the Mustangs escaped the inning unharmed. The Wildcats had trouble figuring out Armintrout from then on out.
"We came up to the plate and we were tight today," Holly coach Dayne Eaton said. "We finally started loosening up toward the end of the game, but we were out of time."
After reaching his pitch count limit, Armintrout was pulled for Graden Stefan, who finished the game seeing only six more hitters. A 6-4-3 double play in the seventh put the Mustangs an out away from a title.
Then a ground ball to shortstop - where Armintrout moved - was fielded cleanly for the final out. Nucla has a brand new trophy and banner to display at the school.
"This is a one of a kind (feeling)," Armintrout said.
And until another baseball title can be won, it's a one of kind achievement for the Mustang.