The battle between third-seeded Pine Creek and No. 14 Legend in a 5A district baseball championship game Saturday afternoon featured two of the best pitchers in the state.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, it resulted in a 2-0 loss and their season ending far sooner than they expected.
Pine Creek's Reagan Biechler and Legend's Bobby Dalbec put on a pitching clinic over seven innings, with Dalbec coming out on top to send his team to the 5A state quarterfinals.
'I pitched against them earlier in the year, and we won, but they hit me around a little bit, ' said the University of Arizona-bound Dalbec. 'My arm is way stronger now than it was earlier in the season, and I was able to throw a lot more fastballs today. '
While there was no radar gun at Pine Creek (16-5), it was clear that Dalbec was throwing the ball very hard. He estimated he was throwing his fastball 92-93 mph for most of the game, and his slider and changeup were just as devastating.
He didn't blink when Pine Creek had the tying run at second base in the seventh inning, striking out Matt Lasley to clinch the district title for the Titans (14-7).
In all, Dalbec struck out 10 and only surrendered three hits. Biechler was just as impressive for Pine Creek, striking out 11 and only allowing three hits. The difference came in the third inning.
After a two-out walk, Biechler attempted to field a bunt toward the mound, but he slipped and couldn't make the play. The next batter, Jordan Stephens, tripled to right field to drive in the game's only runs.
'He was able to square up the ball and I thought it was catchable, but it found a place to drop, ' said Biechler, also a Division I commit ? to Wichita State. 'Bobby is probably the best pitcher in the state, so at least we went out against him instead of someone else. '
The Eagles put the ball in play quite a bit, but couldn't find any holes in the defense. After routing Greeley West 10-0 earlier in the day, the Pine Creek bats were stifled by the 6-foot, 5-inch, 230-pound Dalbec.
'We knew Bobby was very good and knew it would be a tough game; it was just a tough draw for us, ' said Pine Creek coach Glenn Millhauser. 'It was a pitcher's duel, and the way they scored is what hurt. I thought Reagan pitched great today. '
After the game, Biechler walked out to the pitcher's mound for the last time and put a handful of dirt in his pocket as a memento. And just like that, Pine Creek's season ended much earlier than the Eagles anticipated.