The only difference was Capitan won Thursday’s game 5-4. With that win, the Tigers earned their second straight Class 1A state title at Isotopes Park.
The game was decided by a run scoring triple in the top of the seventh by freshman right fielder Robert Miller, who took a pitch by Floyd’s Caleb Martin and smacked it almost 400 feet to dead center field to score Dillon Trapp.
“I was just trying to make contact and bring (Trapp) in,” Miller said. “I just wanted to hit it to where they couldn’t get it.”
The ball landed just at the base of the small hill in centerfield leading up to the outfield fence, just in front of the 400-foot sign.
“I didn’t even feel it off the bat,” Miller said. “I hit that sweet spot.”
That Thursday’s title match was no surprise to anyone involved. Indeed, it was the matchup everyone wanted for the final.
“We knew from watching them yesterday, that this would be a tough game,” said Capitan coach James Weems. “Everything went like I thought it would, with the exception that we had to claw our way back. But however you do it, if you win it feels really good.”
“These were two pretty evenly matched teams,” said Floyd coach Darwin Chenault. “We knew that at the beginning of the year and knew it at the end here. It just came down to who would make the last big play.”
Capitan (17-5) knew it wouldn’t be an easy thing to play a team like Floyd, and knew that getting runs early against starter Reyes Chavez was the key.
The Tigers did in fact get a run early, scoring in the top of the first on a pair of singles by Raul Villegas and Bobby Hughes. But they also left two runners on base – an uncomfortable theme for Capitan in this game.
The Tigers were able to score twice more – a run per inning – and took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth – but the lead could have been so much more. The Tigers left the bases loaded twice and stranded 11 runners total in the game.
All those missed opportunities almost proved to be the Tigers’ undoing, as Floyd (19-4) finally started to find the hitting sweet spot and took advantage of three Capitan errors in the fifth inning.
Three singles by Juan Navarro, Chavez and Jose Torres pushed four runs across, all with two outs, and gave Floyd its first lead of the game.
But there were still two more innings to go, and the Tigers were able to tie things back up with a run in the top of the sixth, chasing starter Chavez from the mound.
Martin – who had started in Floyd’s win over Melrose in Wednesday’s semifinal – came in to get the final two outs of the inning, keeping the game tied at 5-all.
Then came the seventh, and Miller’s game-winning hit.
“It was a risk to bring him in after he had thrown 122 pitches yesterday,” Chenault said of bringing in Martin near the end. “But he threw well. He certainly didn’t do anything wrong, and (Miller) just got a good hit. That’s the way it goes.”
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a game-winning hit if the Bronchos had been able to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the final inning, but the Tiger defense stiffened, and Villegas retired the side in order to earn the complete game victory.
“I felt a lot more than a twinge of worry,” Villegas said of his mindset during the game. “But I just had to keep pitching my way through it. God took me through that.”
So, now the Tigers are the two-time defending Class 1A champions. Weems said this one seems more special.
“The excitement of this game and the way we won it beats everything,” Weems said. “Last year’s game, we had a feel that we’d win it by the fourth inning. But this one, it was up and down, and you could see it in the kids. The fight in them was amazing.”
Tigers 5, Bronchos 4
Capitan 101 011 1 – 5 7 4
Floyd 000 040 0 – 4 6 2
Cap – Raul Villegas and Bobby Hughes. Flo – Reyes Chavez, Caleb Martin (6) and Martin, Chavez (6). W – Villegas. L – Martin. 3B – Cap (Miller). LOB – Cap 11, Flo 5.
Capitan (17-5) IP H R ER K BB
Villegas 7 6 4 2 4 0
Chavez 5 1/3 6 4 4 6 2
Martin 1 2/3 1 1 1 3 2