By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The Cimarron River 12-and-under Rattlers completed their tournament comeback in dramatic fashion Monday night at Rosel Field with a 9-3 victory in the championship.
After losing to Stevens County on Friday, the Rattlers had to battle the rest of the competition, and the heat, all weekend and had to win a rematch with Stevens County and then hand Lakin its first loss of the tournament Sunday to force the Monday evening finale.
But the rematch would not be the cakewalk the Rattlers had over Lakin late Sunday afternoon. Cimarron River took the first game 26-5 in four innings.
Lakin had their left-handed ace on the mound in the final, and the Rattlers were only able to get one hit in the first inning.
But for Cimarron River, it was a big hit. Lakin scattered three walks around two outs when Serbando Avila stepped up to the plate. With a 1-1 count, Avila took a major-league swing and sent the ball deep to right center. The ball cleared the fence for a grand slam and a 4-0 Rattler lead.
“We were tight,” Cimarron River coach Bud Bigham said. “Having Serbando start us off with a grand slam, you can’t go wrong with that.”
Cole Evans pitched a one, two, three first inning, but his arm was sore, and the Rattlers had to go to Avila on the mound.
He did not give up a run in his four innings of pitching and only allowed one hit.
The Rattlers increased their lead in the third when two Rattlers scored on the same passed ball.
Cimarron River increased the lead to 9-0 in the fifth when Dylan Shellenberger led off with a double and later scored on a two-RBI single from Deladrious Green. Obadiah Barnett hit safely, and Sylman Pando added an RBI single to end the scoring for the Rattlers.
Kaiden Bigham took the mound in the sixth and final inning and struggled to get an out. Lakin rallied with three runs and had two runners on base when Shellenberger relieved Bigham.
Shellenberger got a grounder and a pop fly to end the game and preserve the 9-3 Rattler win.
“It was good for us to lose,” Bigham said. “It woke us up. We played some good baseball after that.”
The Rattlers advanced to the state tournament Friday in Scott City.
“At state, the fence will be 200 feet,” Bigham said. “We’re a solid hitting team, and we have seen some good pitching.”
Rosel Field is deeper than 200 feet, and the Rattlers hit six home runs in the district tournament, including three from Evans.
“He was in a slump, but I told him he would wake up in the district tournament,” Bigham said.
The Rattlers will need solid pitching to earn a state championship, something they had during the district tournament.
“Our pitching helped us big time,” Bigham said. “This is a good group of parents. You couldn’t ask for anything better as a coach.”