EVERGREEN - The past few days haven't been the highlight to Lewis-Palmer's otherwise remarkable season, and on a gloomy Saturday afternoon, it all came to an abrupt end.
After skipper Tom McCabe called foul on the Colorado High School Activities Association for putting Evergreen into the final hosting spot in the Class 4A baseball districts instead of his team, the ninth-seeded Rangers took an even bigger hit on Saturday when they fell to the No. 8 Cougars 7-4 in the 4A District 2 championship at Evergreen.
After the Rangers (17-4) rallied from a 4-0 deficit and tied it at 4 on P.J. Underwood's RBI single in the top of the seventh inning, Joshua Bellatti took a fastball from Carson Haws and crushed a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to end Lewis-Palmer's season.
It goes down as the Rangers' only loss in Colorado this season.
"I'm not going to say we lost because we didn't get to host," McCabe said. "Would it have been nice to host and play on our own field? Yes. Would it have been nice to get a break between our first game (at districts) and the final game? Yes. But that's not the reason we didn't get the win today."
Down 4-0 on a windy day in Evergreen, Conner Weeth belted a three-run home run in the fifth inning to ignite the Rangers' comeback. Relief pitcher Haws then shut down the Cougars (18-3) in the bottom half of the fifth and sixth innings before Underwood lined an RBI single to center in the seventh to tie the game.
But by the end, Saturday will be remembered as a day of missed opportunities for Lewis-Palmer. Two runners were left stranded in the second and third innings, Paul Tillotson was thrown out trying to score to end the fifth inning and the Rangers failed to take the lead despite having the bases loaded with only one out in the seventh.
Defensively, they also came up short, extending the second inning with an error, a passed ball and a wild pitch before Dylan Schmoker came up to bat with two outs and hit a two-run home run to give Evergreen the 3-0 lead.
Tillotson, who had a 1.81 ERA coming into the game, gave up another home run to Daniel Gibbins in the fourth inning to make it 4-0.
Saturday marked the sophomore's roughest outing in the state's borders, going five-plus inning while giving up four runs and striking out seven.
"I wish I had some of those pitches back, especially the home-run balls." Tillotson said. "I got a little frustrated out there. I thought the umpires were squeezing the zone a little, but it's my fault. I didn't make the pitches I needed to and I let the team down."
McCabe had choice words with the umps throughout the game, about balls and strikes and bat-size regulation among the topics.
Earlier in the week, he also felt slighted when his Rangers didn't get an opportunity to host a district site, claiming Evergreen listed Palm Springs (Calif.) as having more wins than it should have for the wild-card points process. The alleged error cost Lewis-Palmer from grabbing the final hosting spot as the eight seed.
Lewis-Palmer shut out Fort Morgan 4-0 in the semifinal of the district.