IGNACIO - In addition to his numerous batting titles, the one record (still unbroken) of which major-league Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb was most proud was for most successful steals of home plate - possibly the most difficult play in all of baseball.
In the fourth inning of Game 1 in the San Juan Basin League doubleheader in Ignacio, Dolores' Mikeal Ford scored on a swipe that, by its cerebral nature, the Georgia Peach would have loved.
Inserted for the second time as a courtesy runner for pitcher Kellen Gatzke, who had just doubled to center off Bobcat starter Adison Jones, Ford stole third base with shortstop Ethen Upton at bat. Seconds later, after advancing partially down the third-base line on a wild pitch, Ford crept even closer to the dish when IHS catcher Rain Rosa made a lazy return throw to Jones.
And when Jones showed his shell and stepped towards the mound, Ford was off and safe with a headlong dive into the dirt to his fans' delight as Jones' hurried toss back to an unprepared Rosa went high.
"Well, the third baseman wasn't holding me on, and the catcher was slow to the mound," said Ford, whose run increased DHS' advantage to 8-1 on SunUte Field. "And the pitcher had already turned his back ... so I just took off!"
Jones managed to get out of the inning three Bears later, but the damage was done; Ignacio managed just five baserunners the rest of the way, the first of which, Clayton Jefferson, was gunned down by catcher Kolton Shull on an attempted steal of second in the bottom of the fourth.
Gatzke, then worked out of a jam in the Bobcats' fifth, stranding Joe Herrera at third and Tucker Ward at second by inducing four-hole hitter Bo Ward to pop harmlessly to Upton.
"Everybody played really good," said Gatzke, "Shull had a few good throw-downs, was a wall back there. I had a hurt back today - pulled something the other day - so it was kind of hard for me to pitch. But I pulled through it."
Leadoff hitter Cody Carroll, who went 5-for-7 (with two walks and one hit-by-pitch, and eight runs scored) in the 14-1, 19-5 sweep, came in on Shull's triple down the left-field line, underneath Bo Ward's glove at third, in the guests' sixth off Tucker Ward, and Shull then scored the first game's last run on an RBI-single to left by Gatzke (2-5).
"Cody Carroll, he's always doing good-he's leading the team in batting average - and Kolton Shull always backs him up," said Gatzke. "The beginning of the order's really solid; we've got four good hitters right in a row, so ... as soon as the game starts we're solid already."
Game 1 four-hole Upton was bumped down a slot starting Game 2, in favor of big Tyler Weir, who saw no action in the opener. But there was no beat missed; after Rosa, IHS' starter, walked Carroll, Shull and Gatzke to begin, Weir whacked a single to left to plate the lead pair.
His next AB - Dolores' 13th plate appearance in the inning - yielded two more RBIs on a long single to center, and he himself scored when Jefferson botched the scoop on the play and the ball rolled ever nearer the fence, making the score already Bears 11, Bobcats 0.
Upton and Deano Valdez - beanballed and walked, respectively - would also reach base and ultimately score to close the book early on Rosa after Tucker Ward was again summoned for fireman duty.
The 'Cats (3-14, 0-9 SJBL) countered with a run in their first- and second-inning at-bats, but the outcome was never in doubt, especially when Weir polished off a four-run fifth with a double, bringing in Gatzke.
IHS two-hole Anthony Manzanares managed to single and score on a Tucker Ward double off Carroll in the bottom of the inning, but after a Bo Ward pop-up back to the hill and a sacrifice fly by Jones to move Ward to third, Carroll ended the game with a pick-off of Ward at third.
Re-creating his footwork - thought a balk by the locals - to the umpires, the play stood as called.
"All I know," Shull summarized, looking ahead to the 2A-District 2 Tournament with Dolores finishing 5-4 in league, "is it was too late to keep making errors, not getting our bats off the bus!"
Low-enders Evan Moore and Stetson Hamilton were 8-for-16 combined, with five runs.
"It's crunch time," said Shull. "Got to get our bats going, play hard; it's good to put up some."