Starting pitcher Gabe Hughes picked right up where Ethan Christianson ended the night before, striking out 2 of the first 3 batters he faced while coaxing a ground out for a 1-2-3 scoreless start to the game. Center fielder Ryan Hansen wasted no time, hitting the second pitch for a double and stealing third on the second pitch to left fielder Nick Romano, who drew a walk to put runners on the corners with no outs. A double play brought Hansen in and the Grizzlies settled for a 1-0 lead after the first inning.
Another ground out by the lead off batter provided the first out of the second inning, and what looked like a sure single was turned into another ground out by the terrific range of shortstop Ty Hollow and a third strike-out gave Rocky a second 1-2-3 inning. Second baseman Bryson Moorhouse received a 4-pitch walk with 2 outs but would remain stranded at first and the score stayed 1-0. An uncharacteristic Rocky error put the lead-off Bee on first base, and though Hughes struck out the next batter the base runner was able to advance to second on another Grizzly error, before moving to third on a passed ball. With the tying run just 90 feet away and 1 out, Hughes did what comes natural – he struck out the next batter and induced a grounder for the third out of the inning as the Bees were kept scoreless for the 3rd straight inning. Unfortunately, it was a short inning for Rocky as well as they went down in order.
The top of the 4th saw another Bonneville base runner but he was gunned down trying to steal second by catcher Kaden Hollow (and there was yet another strike-out in the inning). The bottom half of the frame saw Kaden Hollow reach first on a Texas Leaguer, and Brandon Huck came in as his courtesy runner. A single by designated hitter Kase Ogata put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs, and our burly first baseman, Nolan Walker, surprised everybody in the stadium with a perfect bunt down the third base line on the very next pitch to load the bases with nary an out. Ty Hollow used his bat this time to hurt the Bees, scoring Huck on a single and keeping the bases loaded. A fly ball to center by Moorhouse resulted in all kinds of confusion as the center fielder made a nice catch that Ogata was able to tag up and score on but Walker was called out for not tagging up to give Bonneville the unusual double play. The score was 3-0 Rocky after four complete innings.
A lead-off walk was followed by yet another strike-out for Hughes, but a single put runners on 1st and 2nd with one out for Bonneville, who was looking for a spark as they sensed they were rapidly running out of time. But the base runners could just watch helplessly as Hughes made it look easy, throwing 7 strikes out of the next 8 pitches to strike out the next two batters. You could feel the frustration from the batters in the stands as Hughes remained untouchable after 5-1/2 innings of play. Romano reached base on a 2-out walk but could not go any further and the game progressed to the top of the 6th inning with a score of 3-0 in favor of Rocky.
The Bees were not done, however. A single to start the 6th inning brought the crowd right back into it, but Hughes just struck out the next 3 batters with no harm done. Ogata walked to lead off the Rocky half of the inning, and Ethan Buchanan came in to run for him. A fly ball to right allowed Buchanan to get all the way to third base with two outs. Moorhouse received his second 4 pitch walk of the night, but was caught in a pickle to end the inning.
Hughes went out onto the mound in the top of the 7th inning with 89 pitches, which is a key number with the new pitching rules. A pitcher is only allowed 110 pitches and then he has to be replaced, though he can finish the batter he is pitching to when he gets to 110. A lead-off single made the Rocky fans nervous and the Bonneville Bees boisterous, for they had to know Hughes was nearing the end of his tenure on the rubber. Hughes went back to what he does best with the next batter, striking him out for the first out of the inning, arriving at 98 total pitches so far. The Bonneville batters did their best to watch as many pitches as they could, hoping to knock Hughes off the mound. Two balls and a strike looking brought the pitch count to 101 before the batter started swinging. When he finally struck out, Hughes had reached 104. He would have to get the next batter out quickly or he would be done. Two balls were called and then a foul ball. Another foul ball, but this one was caught by Walker and the game ended, 3-0 on his 108th pitch of the night. Rocky advances to the 2017 Idaho 5A state championship tomorrow night at 6:00 when they meet Timberline.
Five different Grizzlies had the five hits in the game for Rocky; Kase Ogata (1-2); Ryan Hansen (1-3, double); Ty Hollow (1-3, rbi); Kaden Hollow (1-3); and Nolan Walker (1-3). Gabe Hughes went the distance, pitching all 7 shut-out innings. He gave up 3 hits, 2 walks but struck out an amazing 14 batters out of 21 total outs in the ball game.