On Monday, the Blair Broncs baseball team had its hands full.
In the first game of the day, they took on the Class B sixth-ranked Granite Panthers and it proved to be one of the toughest games of the season.
The Panthers began with a Guy Martin leadoff and followed it with a Brett Hopkins double, which pushed Martin across the plate. Brady Hopkins and Cole Fletcher walked, loading the bases for the Panthers and spelling early trouble for Blair.
Things did not get much better for the Broncs.
With two outs, Panthers’ Tucker Murray singled, scoring the Hopkins brothers. A wild pitch pushed Fletcher across home plate and gave the Panthers a 4-0 lead after one inning.
Granite continued the scoring spree in the top of the second inning. With one man down, Martin reached first on an error by Blair’s second baseman Saige Knight, followed by a Brett Hopkins single. Brady Hopkins connected with a pitch, but any attempt to stop the play dead was lost when Blair third baseman errored, allowing both Martin and Brett Hopkins to score and giving Granite the 6-0 lead.
Things were looking bleak for the Broncs, but they refused to be blanked and in the third inning. They were finally able to push across their first run of the game.
With one out in the inning, Payson Ramirez doubled to left-center field. Kaden Hans followed Ramirez’s effort with a single to put runners on first and third with Brayden Gray up to bat. Gray laced a double down the right field line to score Ramirez and move runners to second and third in what looked to be a Broncs rally.
Unfortunately for the Broncs, Granite’s pitcher Brady Hopkins was able to strike out Knight and Brooks Cross, ending Blair’s inning and rally.
Granite scored two in the fourth inning and one in the fifth to activate the run rule with the score at 9-1.
“Our pitchers pitched behind in the count all day, and you can’t do that against a team like Granite,” said Blair Head Coach B.J. Armstrong. “They hit the ball too well and we squandered some opportunities to score, but you have to give Granite credit. They hit when they needed to and made plays when they needed to.”
Baylor Downing pitched two innings and picked up the loss after allowing five walks, four hits, and four earned runs while striking out two. Skyler Scott relieved Downing and pitched three innings, striking out five and allowing five walks, two hits, and three earned runs.
Gray hit solidly in the loss going 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI — run-batted-in.
Game 2: Broncs upset Indians
In Blair’s second game of the day they took on the always tough Navajo Indians.
The game turned out to be entertaining with Blair narrowly escaping with its seventh win of the season after falling behind by six late in the game.
Navajo started the scoring in the first when Triston Netherton reached second on an error by center fielder Payson Ramirez. Max Smith brought Netherton home with a single, but Blair’s Brayden Gray was able to stop the bleeding after striking out two Navajo hitters to end the inning.
In the bottom of the first, Saige Knight showed patience and was rewarded with a one-out walk. Brooks Cross was hit by a pitch to earn his free base and Kaden Hans brought them home when he cracked a double to the center-field wall to give the Broncs the 2-1 lead after one inning.
The Indians did not go quietly and took the 3-2 lead in the top of the second after Gray walked both Ethan Taylor and Dallas Cox with only one man down. Taylor and Cox advanced to third and second, respectively, on a wild pitch and were able to score on a Netherton single.
But Blair came back in the bottom of the third and knotted it up after Ramirez walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and to third on a Knight sacrifice bunt. Gray brought Ramirez home with a single before the Indians were able to get the third out of the inning.
The back-and-forth game continued until the top of the fourth when Navajo scored with two down. Colby Staggs walked and then stole second before a long Max Smith line drive to left field appeared to be the final out of the inning. But the ball was not caught and the error allowed Smith to score from second to give the Indians the 4-3 lead.
In the top of the fifth, the Indians continued to push runs across the plate after costly errors by Skyler Scott allowed three to reach base. Navajo took the lead 6-3 after Aaron Josefy and Wyatt Weaver both scored, but they did not stop there, adding three more in the top of sixth to take the 9-3 lead.
But the Broncs answered back.
Keeton Christian led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, but Skyler Scott and Nicco Castillo both went down to put the Broncs in danger.
Baylor Downing was able to reach on an error by Navajo’s shortstop, Ramirez singled to drive in Christian, Knight singled, and Brayden Gray doubled to drive in Downing and Ramirez to bring the Broncs within two.
Brooks Cross came up big with a base hit to score one more and bring the Broncs within one going into the final frame.
Navajo could get nothing going in the top of the seventh and took the field with a one-run lead.
But Christian singled to open the inning and Scott laid down a sacrifice bunt and beat the throw to first to put runners on first and second for the Broncs. Castillo then singled down the left-field line, scoring Christian to tie the game 9-9 with runners on first and second. Payson Ramirez came up big with a single to right field to score Castillo and win the game 10-9.
“We needed the win against Navajo,” Armstrong said. “After the way we lost to Okarche on Saturday and the loss to Granite earlier in the day, we needed some momentum. I credit the guys with hanging tough and never giving up their will to win. We finally had to outscore somebody rather than rely on our pitching and it was a great win.”
Gray pitched four and one-third innings for the Broncs, walking four and allowing two earned runs with five strikeouts, while Hans pitched two and two-thirds innings, walking three, allowing three earned runs, and striking out one to pick up the win.
Gray once again came up big for the Broncs, going 2-for-3 with a double and 3 RBIs.
The Broncs are now 7-6 on the year and will play in Enid versus Drummond and Ninnekah on Friday, before playing Dover-Lomega on Saturday.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.