The Rocky Mountain High baseball team has taken on all comers this season and remained perfect.
The Grizzlies had their toughest test yet Thursday — a road game at Timberline, winners of 14 straight and owners of one loss all season.
Timberline put Rocky Mountain in a hole early, but the Grizzlies rallied in their next at-bats, took advantage of Timberline mistakes and rode the arm of Ryan Beard to a 5-1 victory.
“We knew it was going to be a showdown,” Beard said. “They’ve only lost once and we haven’t lost. … This is what districts and state is going to be like here in a couple weeks. We needed this game to prepare us for that.”
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Timberline (19-2, 12-1 5A SIC) broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when Jake Engelson flared a two-out single into center field, plating Parker Price.
But Rocky Mountain (21-0, 13-0 5A SIC) answered in the top of the fifth, taking advantage of two errors, a walk and a hit batter to score three runs — one earned — on one hit.
“Runs are definitely at a premium,” Rocky Mountain coach Jake Taylor said. “With our inability at times to string multiple at-bats together, we’ll take any help we can get in that type of game.”
That 3-1 lead was more than enough for the aptly-named Beard, a left-handed pitcher with a blonde beard who has signed with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. The senior’s combination of a tailing fastball and tight slider forced Timberline to defend both sides of the plate, against both pitches.
Timberline’s Payton Harris led off the game by ripping a first-pitch single up the middle. Beard remained calm, though, earning a double-play ball on the next pitch and only grew stronger as the night wore on. He finished seven innings by surrendering one run on six hits while striking out eight.
“He’s got a good little two-seam sinker that the further the games goes, it runs more and more and more,” Taylor said. “He was fantastic tonight.”
A pair of hit batters in the seventh inning led to two more Rocky Mountain runs and the final score. Timberline coach Larry Price called the wildness on the mound and the gaffes in the field uncharacteristic for his team and thinks the pressure of the big game maybe got to the Wolves.
“It was a big game, and all week long we’re trying to preach, ‘Hey, you play like it’s another game,’ even though, deep in your heart, you know it’s not,” Price said. “It’s two of the better teams right now in the league.
“They capitalized on our mistakes, and also their pitcher threw a great game.”
Rocky Mountain takes over sole possession of first place in the 5A SIC, but the two clubs meet again at 6 p.m. Friday at Rocky Mountain for the second game of the home-and-home series.
Rocky Mountain can clinch the regular season title with a victory. But Taylor said an undefeated season was never the goal.
“It is what it is right now,” Taylor said. “We’re just trying to win each day and not worry about the next day. If you only have practice, we’re going to look to get better in practice.
“It’s kind of fallen into place that way.”