LAKEWOOD - For as perfectly as Palmer Ridge started the day in the Class 4A state baseball tournament, the Bears went the opposite direction in their second game.
Yet when they came to the plate in the top of the seventh they found themselves trailing by just two runs.
The Bears overcame that deficit only to watch umpires - who convened with each other before making the call - hand the game-winning run to Niwot when it was ruled Cougars base runner Danny Caruso was obstructed trying to return to third while caught in a rundown.
The result Friday: Niwot 5, Palmer Ridge 4 at All-City Park.
"We had the right play on, we knew they were going to try and bunt the run home," Bears coach Steve Whiting said. "Cole (Hurford) made the right pitch and we had the guy out. To lose a game like that, making a comeback like we did, that's tough to swallow."
The Bears will play the winner between Valor Christian and Longmont at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at All-Star Park in the double-elimination tournament. Valor and Longmont play at 10 a.m.
Hurford, who drove in a pair of runs in the Bears' 4-1 win over Evergreen in the morning, drove in a run and scored the game-tying run in the top half of the seventh.
After watching his team commit three errors and deal with base runners all afternoon in the second game, yet playing a strong opener, Hurford knows that the Bears (16-7) are right at home in the tournament.
"We didn't necessarily have a bad game," Hurford said. "We had inopportune errors, inopportune at-bats. We know what we're capable of as we saw in the Evergreen game."
In the first game, Jake Grubesic threw a one-run, six-hit complete game.
"I took the mound and I was like all I have to do is throw strikes," Grubesic said. "I'm not really worried about who I'm pitching against, I'm more worried about how our team does."
Palmer Ridge battered Evergreen ace Brock Burke for four runs over four innings and played perfect defense. Against Niwot (20-3), the Bears committed three errors, which led to the Cougars' unearned fourth run.
"Kind of the opposite of the first game where we made all the plays," Whiting said. "Here we got a couple of errors and it cost us."