COLORADO SPRINGS — Spencer Rich had himself a rough couple of at-bats in Silver Creek's second game on Friday.
The centerfielder laced a shot to the wall in his first at-bat only to cramp up and barely make it to first base. Normally he'd get to third. Then he got hit square in the back in his second plate appearance.
So the third time up, he decided a nice trot around the bases was the way to go. His 3-run home run in the fourth inning proved to be the deciding runs as the Raptors beat the Tigers 11-7 in one of two winner's bracket games in the Class 4A baseball tournament.
"I just tried to do my job," Rich said. "My teammates gave me confidence so I just tried to put the bat on the ball."
He did and the ball flew way out of Mountain Lion Stadium at the campus of University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
His trot around the bases was much more pleasant than what he faced in the first as he ripped the ball to left center, scoring Michael Wegelitner to put the Raptors (25-2 overall) up in the first inning.
"Ball in the gap for him, I try to get him to third base," Silver Creek coach Brad Steward said. "I look up and he's not there."
He stayed in the game and ended up scoring on a single from Tanner Reagan to increase the lead to 2-0.
But the Tigers (21-6) weren't going away easy. They knocked Silver Creek pitcher Ryan Suess out of the game in the second inning after scoring four runs. Steward brought Matthew Koelfgen into the game and the bleeding stopped for the most part.
Koelfgen threw six innings and surrendered just three more runs on five hits to the Tigers. The Raptors' ability to not get rattled from the four-run second inning is one of the many reasons that they haven't lost to a Colorado team this season.
"Everyone who comes here wants to win," Rich said. "We play for each other and we love the game so that puts us in a great position."
Silver Creek advanced to the late game thanks to an eight-inning, 5-4 win over Wheat Ridge. Rich went just 1-for-4 in that game, a far cry from the 2-for-2 performance against the Tigers where he scored and drove in four runs.
Another performance like that on Saturday against Pueblo West could mean nothing but good things for next week's final weekend.
"We talked this week, Spencer and I," Steward said. "He's been putting a lot of pressure on himself the last few weeks. You have a lot of guys surrounding you that can pick you up if you can't do it yourself. You have to go up, relax and contribute to the team and I thought he did a great job of that today."
Silver Creek and Pueblo West are the two unbeaten teams heading into Saturday's slate of games. They meet at 2:30 p.m. at UC Health Field, the home of the Rocky Mountain Vibes.
Erie will meet Golden and Wheat Ridge will face Cheyenne Mountain in the first slate of elimination games on Saturday.
Pueblo West 8, Fort Morgan 7 (8 innings)
Seemingly dead to rights twice, Pueblo West remains alive in the 4A baseball tournament after an extra-inning, walk-off win over Fort Morgan.
The Mustangs held a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh, but a 2-run triple from Tyler Declusin pulled the Cyclones to within one. He later scored on an infield single to tie the game.
Fort Morgan took a two-run lead in the top of of the eighth and had the Cyclones down to their last strike in the bottom of the inning. Kyle Jameson tied the game with a single and then Declusin ripped the ball down the line to end the game and keep Pueblo West's title hopes alive.