AURORA - No matter how many times Canon City tried to rally, Northridge kept its lead. And by the time the No. 4 Tigers' bats got hot, the score was well out of reach.
Canon City scored five times in the bottom of the seventh, yet No. 8 Northridge still won 14-8 on Saturday at Cherokee Trail High School to eliminate Canon City from the Class 4A state baseball tournament.
The Tigers (13-10) scored a run in the third, fourth and fifth innings. But every time they did, the Grizzlies (16-8) answered. And then the sixth inning came along. The Grizzlies scored six runs in the inning, five of them unearned, four of them with two outs, to turn a two-run game into an 11-3 lead.
"They didn't play clean this whole weekend," Tigers coach Tim Ritter said.
After building that lead to 14-3, the Grizzlies surrendered five runs in the bottom of the seventh, but it was nowhere near enough for the Tigers.
"You can't expect to show up in the seventh inning and just win it," said Canon City senior Austin Douglas, who homered and drove in two runs.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers had runners on first and third with one out when Logan Hilburn was picked off third by Grizzlies catcher Robert Fulton. Two batters later the base-running gaffe proved costly, as Blake Madone came through with a base hit that scored only one, instead of two. The Tigers would head to the fifth trailing 3-2, instead of tied at 3.
"We couldn't miss their bats when we got ahead," Ritter said. "They capitalized on our mistakes and they put the pressure on us, and we didn't field the ball cleanly."
Before the sixth, the Tigers never trailed by more than three. Twice they cut two-run deficits to one, but they never produced that tying run.
"Last weekend at districts we had really good sticks," Douglas said. "And this weekend we just didn't answer. When we got our one run it'd be good, but it just seemed like every time we got that one or two that they'd top us."
Reliever RJ Stainbrook took the loss. Despite working ahead to the majority of Grizzlies batters, Stainbrook surrendered seven runs, three earned, including struggling through the sixth that saw a key error lead to the six-run inning.
"Wherever we put it they found where we needed to be and we weren't at," said Stainbrook, who finished with an RBI. "They just knew how to fight and battle, get their pitch. If you can't throw strikes and get ahead in the count, you won't do anything."
The Tigers also lost Friday in the double-elimination tournament, falling to No. 5 Durango 19-5.