Boulder City’s baseball team entered the Southern Region playoffs one game over .500 and in search of the secret ingredient that made the Eagles state champions a season ago.
It turns out, it wasn’t a home run hitter in the middle of the lineup or a dominant ace on the mound.
As coach Bobby Reese said, “it was all heart” this time around.
Boulder City took advantage of a depleted pitching staff to grab an early eight-run lead, and the Eagles grinded out an 8-7 victory over Spring Creek on Saturday in the Class 3A state final at Faith Lutheran to repeat as champions.
“I feel accomplished,” senior catcher Kodey Rahr said. “Everybody doubted us this year, and halfway through our season, we doubted ourselves. But honestly, as soon as playoffs hit, we knew what we had to do. We knew we had to get wins, and we knew we were going to have to battle.”
The Eagles, who finished their playoff run 8-1, secured the championship when relief pitcher Jacob Hubel got Spring Creek’s Shelden Wilkinson to fly out to Teddy Lobkowicz in center field with the bases loaded for the final out.
“Honestly, I was thinking about striking him out,” said Hubel, who threw two innings of relief and also was the winning pitcher on Thursday. “But (Teddy’s) a great pop-fly catcher, so I was just ready to throw my glove up in the air and celebrate and hug all my brothers.
“I’m speechless. Beyond excited. At first, when he caught it, it was hard to comprehend that we were the first back-to-back state champs in Boulder City High School history.”
Rhett Armstrong, Lobkowicz and Nolan Herr each had two hits, and winning pitcher Noah Higgins struck out three in 4 1/3 innings for Boulder City (23-15).
“There’s six, seven kids out there that (assistant coach) Tim (O’Neill) and I have had since they were 6 years old,” Reese said. “And it was my dream to put a ring on their finger. … They’re just full of heart. I said this earlier in the week, but I think a lot of people counted us out this year after we graduated eight seniors and seven starters.”
The Eagles drew six walks, including three with the bases loaded, and took advantage of two errors in their seven-run second inning to blow the game open. But Spring Creek nearly forced one more game by rallying with three consecutive two-run innings and loading the bases with no outs in the seventh.
“I thought we were going to try and keep our intensity level high and not give them any hope,” said Hubel, referring to his team’s 8-0 lead. “But they came back, and we just happened to rise to the occasion like we usually do and shut them down.”
In the seventh, the Spartans got three consecutive singles to load the bases. But Hubel induced a force out at the plate and struck out Spring Creek No. 3 hitter Matt Shanks to set up the final at-bat. On a 1-and-2 count, Hubel used his changeup to get Wilkinson to fly out and set the dogpile in motion.
“(Hubel)’s our guy, and when it came to it, we were going to win or lose with him,” Reese said. “We were going to ride that horse and see what happened.”
Shanks was 3-for-5 with a double, and Matt Ferreira went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Spring Creek (28-10).
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.