Summit baseball wins on walk-off grand slam
Tigers rally in final innings to defeat Rifle, extend win streak
FRISCO — Cassius Bradford stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with the chance to seize every young baseball player’s dream: a grand-slam walk-off home run.
With three teammates loading the bases and the Tigers trailing 8-7, Bradford dug in for an at bat after he was hit by a pitch in his last trip to the plate. The at bat before that, Bradford was robbed of a home run by a great Rifle catch at the right-center field fence.
During this last-licks opportunity, Bradford didn’t waste any time, sending a first-pitch fastball over the fence in deep center field to propel the Tigers to a thrilling 11-8 win — and a mob scene of celebration at home plate.
Tigers head coach Patrick Stehler said it was the first game he’s ever been a part of with a grand-slam walk-off home run.
Bradford joked that being hit by the pitch woke him up, but he wasn’t necessarily going for a home run in the winning situation. The catcher merely wanted to put the ball in play to tie the game at 8.
“My heart’s racing right now,” Bradford said, moments after the game concluded.
Stehler was glad to see Bradford break out of a slump.
“He made good contact earlier in the game when they robbed him of a home run to center field. And, so, after that he was able to shorten up his swing a little bit, put a little metal on it, and the rest was history.” Stehler said.
Bradford hammered home the winning grand slam after senior captain Foster Krueger put himself as the tying run on first base with a walk. Tigers senior captain Zach Misch then laid a bunt down the third base line and beat the throw to first base while Krueger advanced to second.
Rifle then chose to intentionally walk Will Koll to get to Bradford, who quickly made the Bears regret that decision.
Summit had the chance to rally late in the game after Misch started the game on the mound and registered three strikeouts through three innings pitched. Misch had eight runs go against him, though only three were earned after some errors in the field by the Tigers.
“He pitched well with runners on base,” Stehler said.
Brecken Perlow hits a line drive during the Summit High School varsity baseball team’s pair of wins over Eagle Valley at the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area in Frisco on Tuesday. | Photo by Joel Wexler / Rocky Mountain.Photography
GAME-WINNING WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM! Watch the replay of the Facebook Live broadcast from Summit’s thrilling comeback win over RiflePosted by Summit Daily News onThursday, May 20, 2021
Tigers sophomore pitcher Zach Willms came in for relief for Misch in the fourth inning. The long pitcher built up confidence pitch by pitch and worked his way out of several innings where Bears runners got on base thanks to a few particularly timely strikeouts of his seven total.
“His performance was awesome,” Stehler said. “His focus was a little bit down early on in the game, but the fact that he was able to stay mentally tough and in the strike zone — hats off to him. He threw an amazing game in relief.”
Willms said he knew he needed to execute for his team in tough situations and hit his spots and throw strikes. The sophomore leaned on his curveball and added timely, effective fastballs as well to keep the Bears off balance.
At the plate, Misch led the way with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate while Willms, Koll and junior Jax Boyd added two hits apiece.
Now sporting a 4-4 record — and a 3-game home winning streak — heading into Monday’s home doubleheader versus Canon City, Stehler thinks the Tigers are in good shape with eight games remaining before regionals.
“I hope this continues to snowball,” Stehler said. “It was great late in the game we were able to take that momentum and score a few runs.”
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