Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Whew! Robards Lets Out Huge Sigh of Relief As Herd Rebounds For Win

Ryan Robards has had quite a senior year at Elk Grove High School. He led the Delta League football teams in just about every offensive category except for passing. He set school records in rushing and scoring. Robards had the kind of season any running back would dream of.
Then here comes baseball and he's right in the middle of the batting order, in right field and is the team's closer. His team wins the Delta League championship and to get ready for the playoffs a couple of his football teammates gave him a haircut that is right out of the comic books.
In Wednesday's Sac-Joaquin Section North Division I consolation final, he was called out of right field to pitch and close the game with Woodcreek. The Herd led the Timberwolves, 3-2, at the time.
A couple guys got on base, one on a high chopper that went about thirty feet in the air and landed down the left field line as though it ricocheted off pavement. Robards took it all in stride. He looked in for a sign from catcher Erek Bolton as he began to face Tyler Malone. Robards threw a fastball to Malone and then...
Riley Lamp was the Herd's starting pitcher Weds.
"I knew I didn't put it in a good spot and then when he hit it, I knew it was gone," Robards recalled.
Malone hit a moon shot that just cleared the right field fence at Sacramento City College's Union Stadium. The Timberwolves and their fans went nuts. They were leading the defending Section champions, 5-3.
"There's one out and I'm thinking, 'Can I even get out of this?'" Robards questioned. "I was so frustrated, I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't want to show it much, I knew I had a chance to hit in the next inning."
Head coach Jeff Carlson had to come to the mound to visit the highly emotional Robards.
"I told him, 'Just get us out of the inning,'" Carlson said. "We had a chance in the bottom of the inning to get those runs back."
Robards did exactly what his coach wanted and the game went into the bottom of the final inning.
Elk Grove led off with the top of the order and Mason Breiphol. All Robards wanted was a chance to bat.
After Breiphol worked a walk out of Woodcreek pitcher Joey Pankratz and Aaron Wong flied out, Dylan Carlson took a low and inside pitch and drilled it to the left field wall. Breiphol sprinted around the diamond and made it 5-4, Woodcreek.
Then it was time for Robards and some redemption.
"I was a little jumpy, but I swung at it and it got in on me a little, so I took a shot at it," he described.
Robards also looped the ball down the rightfield line, just fair. Carlson scored easily and the game was tied. Any chance of being blamed for a horrible, sour ending to the baseball season was lifted off Robards' shoulder. Now, he had the opportunity to score the game-winning run.
After the Timberwolves brought in relief pitcher Cody Lindsey. Josh Urps was intentionally walked because first base was open. Then it was Riley Lamb's turn. He was the starting pitcher and did a solid job for six innings. He had the chance to win it.
He hit a sharp ground ball to third and they got the force play at the third base bag and Robards was out. Now, there was two outs.
Then it was Kevin Kyle's turn for the role of hero with Urps standing on second base.
Coach Jeff Carlson has a strategy session with his baserunners in the 7th inning
The designated hitter went after Lindsey's first pitch and drilled a one-hopper to the leftfield wall, Urps scored the winning run and the celebration was on. Robards went from potential goat to winning pitcher.
"We have a tendancy to do that, we wait until the seventh inning," Robards said. "In the seventh inning we're a different team, I guess."
Now, the Herd is back in the familiar role of playing for the North Division I championship. It will be played Friday at 4 p.m. at Union Stadium. Elk Grove, coming out of the losers' bracket in this double elimination tournament, must will two games against #1 seed Oak Ridge to go to next week's Section Division I championship series at University of the Pacific.
Robards admitted afterwards his emotions in that final inning on Wednesday were really up and down.
"I am just so glad my teammates picked me up," he said. "Now we've got Oak Ridge for two more games and we can extend our season."
Big sigh. He's glad his high school athletic career didn't end on a sour note.
"It would have been a rough night," he claimed.
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