Last week it was the Broncos sweeping the Hillcrest Knights, securing the four seed in the High Country Conference and gaining a home-field advantage for the District VI Tournament. But last night, the tables turned, as the Knights reeled off two straight victories against Blackfoot to advance to the semifinals, in the process knocking Blackfoot out of postseason play.
Hillcrest came out hot on Tuesday, blasting Blackfoot 14-1 (five innings) in the first game of the District VI Tournament. Hillcrest wouldn't wait long to get rolling, getting three of their first four batters on base. With a runner on third, Hillcrest's Jace Hansen would single on a line drive up the middle, scoring the Knights first run of the game.
Blackfoot, whose offense was nothing short of stellar last week against the Knights, would score their only run of the game in the first inning off a Cayden Cornell sacrifice fly.
The Broncos would get just four hits in the first game of the doubleheader.
After a scoreless second inning, Hillcrest would add another run in the third off a Carson Tubb single. The Knights would score another three runs in the fourth, before putting the game to bed with nine runs in the fifth inning.
The highlight of the fifth inning for Hillcrest fans would be a Luke Patterson three-run home run to right field, pushing the Hillcrest lead to 11-1 and putting an exclamation mark on what had already been a dominantgame for Hillcrest.
Starting on the mound for Blackfoot was Cayden Cornell. Cornell would last 4.1 innings, striking out two batters while allowing two hits. Juan Pimentel would come in for Cornell, and get one out while allowing four more hits and an additional six runs to the Knights. Tehan Bassett would record the final out of the fifth inning for Blackfoot.
Hansen pitched all five innings for Hillcrest, striking out five Bronco batters on the day.
Hillcrest would get 14 hits in the game, led by Hansen ( 4 hits, 1 RBI), Luke Patterson (2 hits, 3 RBI), Caleb Harris (1 hit, 3 RBI), and Kolter Smith (2 hits, 3 RBI).
Stryker Wood, Jace Jorgensen, Carter Cooper, and Isaiah Thomas would each have a hit for the Broncos.
The Broncos would do themselves no favor in the second game, digging themselves into an early hole. But despite trailing by as many as eight runs at one point in the fourth inning, Blackfoot battled back, before ultimately falling 12-10.
Hillcrest's Jace Hansen, who had played a great game one (four hits), carried his momentum into game two. Hansen would hit two home runs in the second game, the first, a three-run shot to right field would bring the Hillcrest lead to 4-0 in the top of the third inning. Hansen would hit a solo shot later in the 6th inning.
Facing elimination, Blackfoot would find themselves trailing 10-2 going into the fourth inning. But like they have all year, the Broncos would make things interesting.
In the 4th inning, after getting Jace Jorgensen on base by way of a Hillcrest error, Carter Cooper, Jacob Neild, Isaiah Thomas, and Jace Jorgensen would all also get on base, help cut the Blackfoot deficit to just three.
After two Hillcrest runs in the sixth to bump the lead to 12-7, Blackfoot would once again respond, as Cornell would hit a deep sac-fly with the bases loaded to right field to score Ethan Case and Thomas.
But the Broncos best defensive stand would come in the seventh inning. After hitting a batter, allowing a hit, and then a following error on the next batter, Hillcrest would load the bases with no outs, leading by three.
Blackfoot's Jace Grimmett would record the first out, striking out Hillcrest's Hansen. On the next batter, Blackfoot catcher Jerod Gough would catch the runner on third leading off, recording the second out on a throw to third. Grimmett would then record the strikeout, escaping the inning with no damage done.
But needing three runs to at least draw a tie, Blackfoot would fall just short, scoring only one off an Ethan Case sac-fly to center field. The Broncos would pop up on their final out of the year, ending the Broncos season.
Kyson Van Orden started on the mound for Blackfoot, pitching 2.2 innings. Juan Pimentel, Candon Dahle, and Jace Grimmett all pitched in relieving duties for the Broncos.
Grimmett (3 hits, 2 RBI), Thomas (2 hits, 2 RBI), Cornell (1 hit, 2 RBI) led Blackfoot in batting.
"I knew these kids had character, they weren't just gonna roll over and die," said Blackfoot Head Coach Liam Pope following Tuesday's games. "Even when we were down 10-2, I was still like 'Nah, we still got a little bit.' I've been with these boys throughout, from when they were younger, and I knew we were going to be in it. We're a feisty bunch. But we just left ourselves a little too much to do."
The matchup for Blackfoot was a tough one, as the team had just faced the same Hillcrest Knight's only a week prior. Against a team looking for revenge, Pope knew that Tuesday was going to be tough.
"I think anybody who knows sports knows that maybe sweeping Hillcrest last week was one of the worst things we could've done. Beating a good team three times, which Hillcrest is, is hard enough. Beating a team five times out of six is really difficult. But with that said, we believed we could win. Game one we weren't as clean as we would've liked to have been, and game two we just left ourselves too much to do at the end."
And while Blackfoot has already celebrated senior night, Tuesday's doubleheader was the official last time the group would play together in a Bronco uniform. It was clear the respect the team has for one another, as players embraced one last time on Tuesday.
"I just told them (seniors) how proud I am of them. It's an honor to coach them…And take a look at the field we're on right now. I think it's one of the best fields in South-East Idaho now, and that was these boys senior project. These guys raised $25,000 and re-sodded the field. That's their legacy...That in itself tells you just about everything you need to know about them."
And while these losses sting, Pope explains that baseball, maybe more-so then any other sport, represents life.
"You have good days, and you have bad days. Today is a down day. But you don't give up, and we come back tomorrow and face the planet, because that's what you have to do."