Even before the 2010 Continental Baseball League season started, Big Bend Cowboys manager Donnie Randell set the team bar at the highest level.
“Last year, we wanted to be competitive — and we were (reaching the playoff finals before losing to Alexandria),” he said. “This season, we want to win the championship.”
On Saturday, the Cowboys rode over the bar, scoring 12 runs in the seventh inning to rout Las Cruces 14-1 in the deciding game of the best-of-three title series.
Justin Lucero’s three-run homer lifted the Cowboys to a 6-4 win in Thursday’s opener at Kokernot Field before the Vaqueros built an early 4-0 edge en route to a 4-3 triumph Friday evening.
On Saturday, though, the Cowboys closed the book on the CBL’s short history in decisive fashion.
Las Cruces enjoyed a brief 1-0 lead on Mitch Saum’s fourth-inning the single, one of four hits in the frame. The Cowboys forged ahead in the fifth as Darryl Stanfield singled, stole second and, after Lucero walked, both runners advanced on a passed ball. Tyler Hicks’ one-out sacrifice fly plated Stanfield, and Mike Dobre singled home Lucero for a 2-1 edge.
Righthander Anthony Gibbons preserved the lead through seven innings, then the Cowboys removed all doubt with their biggest single frame of the year.
Walks to Hicks and Kyle Wells sandwiched Dobre’s single, and Corey O’Neill rapped a base hit to plate two. Successive walks to Nick Ochoa and Javier Arrieta made the score 5-1; Stanfield singled and Lucero was nicked by a pitch for a 7-1 margin, then another walk to Hicks forced home the sixth run of the rally. Dobre added a two-run single, Wells added an RBI hit, and Ochoa’s three-run double ended the 12-run, seven-hit outburst.
Gibbons spaced seven hits and one walk over seven innings to gain the win. He struck out four. Reed Alfieri allowed one hit and struck out one in the final two frames. Stanfield and Dobre had three hits each in the 13-hit attack. Wells, Ochoa and Arrieta added two each and Wells one. Both Ochoa and Dobre drove in three runs.
Thursday: Lucero’s three-run, fourth-inning blast provided the lead and he added an RBI double in the sixth to pad the margin as the Cowboys held off the Vaqueros in the playoff opener.
Jimmy Dale spaced six hits and three runs over eight innings and Scott Shimek, aided by a game-ending double play, collected the save.
Big Bend grabbed a1-0 edge in the first on singles by Hicks and Dobre and O’Neill’s fielder’s choice. Mike Notoro evened the count with a solo homer to lead off the third.
In the fourth, the Cowboys struck back as Ochoa walked, Garcia singled and with one out, Lucero launched his first homer of the season. Eddie Browne’s double plated Henry Fuentes, who walked, with a Las Cruces tally in the fifth.
Big Bend strung together three two-out hits to build a 6-2 margin after six. Stanfield singled, Lucero doubled to score Stanfield, then raced home on Cody Collins’ base hit.
Dale kept the Vaqueros in check until the eighth, yielding a two-out homer to Steven Detwiler. Shimek took over in the ninth, and was greeted by Notoro’s second circuit blast of the game. After a groundout, Saum walked and Browne singled, but Shimek induced David Van Ostrund to bounce into a second-short-first twin killing.
Dale walked two and struck out five over eight frames, while Shimek yielded two hits, a run and a walk in the ninth.
Lucero and Stanfield each had two hits, while Hicks, Dobre, Collins, Garcia and Wells had one apiece. Lucero drove in four runs and Collins and O’Neill had one RBI each.
Friday: Sean Kramer staved off a ninth-inning threat with three strikeouts as the Vaqueros evened the series Friday night.
Las Cruces built an early 4-0 lead with three in the second and one in the third. Big Bend scored in the third as Lucero walked, moved up on a wild pitch and a flyout, then trotted home on a balk.
The Cowboys closed within 4-3 in the eighth as Ochoa led off with a homer. Arrieta drew a walk, moved up on a groundout and rambled across the plate on Lucero’s single.
Ochoa opened the ninth with a double off Kramer, who relieved starter Blum. Kramer fanned the next two hitters, walked Lucero, then ended the game with another whiff.
Cowboy starter Kevin Cooper worked seven innings, granting 10 hits and four runs. He walked four and struck out seven. Alfieri and Shimek each hurled scoreless frames, granting one hit apiece. Ochoa homered, doubled and singled to lead Big Bend’s eight-hit attack. Wells added two singles and Dobre, Hicks and Lucero one each.
Cowboy Tracks: The Cowboys held a 10-9 season edge over the Vaqueros, with six games decided by one run, two by two runs and three by three tallies. … Unofficially, Ochoa finished the year with a .475 batting average, a team-high 11 homers and 37 RBI. … O’Neill slugged 10 homers, a triple and 12 doubles among his 65 hits, batting .404 with a team-leading 55 RBI. … Dobre, acquired at mid-season, responded with a sizzling .536 average and 17 RBI, while Hicks, another mid-year addition, batted .407. …
Twelve other players with extended duty batted .300 or higher.