Fred Edwards hit a walk-off home run to send the Bayfield Wolverines to the regional championship game. A gritty group of Wolverines fought to the finish of the title game, but it wasn’t enough to knock off a group of deeply committed Salida seniors.
The Wolverines met up against the Salida Spartans in the 3A Region 6 championship game Saturday afternoon. The winner would advance to the CHSAA Class 3A State Baseball Tournament.
Bayfield was the region’s host and top seed. It took the Wolverines eight innings to beat fourth-seed Denver Science and Tech-Stapleton. Edwards lifted a fly ball to left field, and the wind helped carry it over the fence for a walk-off home run to give BHS an 8-7 win.
Salida’s first win wasn’t nearly as dramatic, as the Spartans beat second-seed Resurrection Christian 8-4.
In the regional championship, Bayfield took an early lead on a solo home run by senior catcher Austin Bushnell in the second inning. But Salida (15-6) rallied to tie the game in the fourth before a three-run fifth inning to secure a 4-3 victory. Salida picked up its first postseason wins since the mid-1990s.
“This means everything,” said Salida senior shortstop Desmond Lau, who went 1-for-3 with a double, a sacrifice fly and two runs batted in. “Freshman year walking in, we were 3-16. Coach (Adam Christensen) told us he believed in our freshmen group coming in and told us before we graduate he would push us to the final eight. Nobody really believed it, but we worked our tail off as a senior group. It’s incredible to see that work pay off.”
Bayfield (16-5) wouldn’t back down trailing 4-1 going to the bottom of the seventh inning. Bushnell was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Alex Demko had an RBI double to score him to cut the deficit to 4-2. Rhett Hoover then ripped an RBI single to score Demko and give Bayfield the tying run at first base with two outs. But Kirk Malone grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game, as Lau fielded the ball at shortstop and flipped it to second base in time to get Hoover.
“I was gonna throw across to first, but I heard my second baseman calling for it,” Lau said of his assist on the final out. “I flipped it to him, he stuck it and the rest was a blur of throwing our hats and giving the boys all the hugs they deserved.”
Hayden Farmer was the losing pitcher for the Wolverines, but the sophomore was spectacular in six innings of work. His devastating curveball helped him rack up 10 strikeouts. He allowed six hits and four runs, three earned. He faced the minimum nine batters through the first three innings before a Lau sacrifice fly scored Sam Tameler in the fourth. Tameler was 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored.
“He was incredible,” Bushnell said of Farmer. “He’s the ace of the team, and he’s going to be their ace as long as he’s here.”
A run of RBI singles cost Farmer in the fifth. Nico Granzella singled to start a one-out rally, and Eli Smith reached on catcher’s interference to give the Spartans two runners on base. Zane Rudney then singled in Granzella, and Tameler singled home Smith. Lau added a two-out double to score Tameler to cap off the big inning.
Smith pitched a complete game for the Spartans. He took a line drive off his right calf on a bullet off the bat of Bayfield’s Edwards in the first inning. Lau scooped up the deflected ball and threw Edwards out at first, but all eyes were on the big pitcher who was wincing in pain on the mound. Smith stayed in the game and pitched a gem and let his defense work behind him. He allowed only four hits and struck out seven in seven innings pitched. He hit a batter with a pitch and walked only one.
“My calf was definitely sore, and it hurt to run,” Smith said. “Sometimes you just have to buck up.”
Salida’s coach visited the mound in the seventh inning, but Smith hid the ball behind his back. There was no chance he was giving it up with only two outs left to send Salida to the state tournament.
“He came out and I got worried, but I wasn’t going out. No way,” he said.
It wasn’t the way Bayfield wanted the season to end, but a young team carried on the program’s winning tradition with another Intermountain League championship and a home regional tournament.
“The seniors meant the world to me this season,” Bushnell said. “They helped me get through it and supported me. They’ve done everything they can to go as far as we can. They did it for the seniors, and I love them for that.”
Bushnell had a big day. Along with his home run against Salida, he also threw out a runner trying to steal. In the first game against Denver Science and Tech-Stapleton, he hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning.
Along with his walk-off home run, Edwards was 4-for-5 at the plate in the game with a double and an RBI to go along with four runs scored.
“My walk-off, I was surprised, really,” Edwards said. “Off the bat, I thought it was a pop-up, but it went out. My only other homer was a in a junior varsity game, but it was a walk-off grand slam.”
It was a big day for the Edwards family, as Bayfield freshman Mavis Edwards, Fred’s younger sister, placed second at the 4A state tennis tournament in No. 1 singles.
“Watch out for us Edwards’,” Fred said with a smile.
Edwards also pitched the first three innings of the team’s win against the Knights. He gave up three hits and two unearned runs. He walked two batters. Andrew Morgan pitched the final five innings and earned the win. He gave up eight hits and five earned runs. He walked two, hit a batter and struck out six.
Farmer was 1-for-4 with two RBIs in the win. Demko also hit a solo home run in the win, and Hub Brandon had a pair of RBIs.