Spring prep previews: Eagle Valley baseball brings back experience for 2023 campaign
Devils lost just one senior from 2022 squad that went 7-14
Pitchers and catchers have reported in Gypsum. A spring-training bonus for head coach Bret Moyer: he’s seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“We are a team with a good amount of varsity experience,” Moyer said, pointing out how the Devils lost just one senior, Peter D’Agostino from a 2022 team that went 7-14 overall and 3-9 in the 4A Western Slope. D’Agostino, who is now playing at Trinidad State College, was a fairly significant piece to the puzzle, though, leading the team in RBIs and finishing second in hits.
“We will definitely miss his bat in our lineup, as well as Jack Josef,” the coach continued. Josef, who led the team in hits last season and is one of just four seniors on the team, will have season ending surgery in a week. The lead-off hitter tore his labrum in the offseason.
“He was a rock behind the plate as well,” Moyer added. Jacob Loupe is expected to step in at catcher.
“Jacob is our most intelligent ball player,” Moyer said of the junior, who will also pitch for the team. “He lives, breaths and studies the game. His awareness behind the plate will help our other pitchers and he is an on-base guy at the plate, plus power.”
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On the mound, senior Patrick Reno is expected to return as the staff workhorse.
“He doesn’t throw overly hard but commands the zone with good movement and has great confidence in his pitches,” Moyer said of the player who led the team in strikeouts last year with 39 in 11 appearances. Moyer added that Reno’s production at the plate will be important for the team’s offensive progress as well.
Junior Elias Pena, who threw 37 strikeouts and won two games for the Devils, also returns as a starting pitcher and right fielder.
“He has a great combination on the mound with his fastball and slider, and coming into his junior year he has found more command,” said Moyer. “We expect a big season from him on the mound. This summer he worked really hard on his batting and it has shown so far in practice.”
Surrounded by youth, seniors P.J. Lombardo and Nick Rahe will provide power at the plate and speed on the baselines, respectively.
“His presence in the lineup from the left side will help us greatly,” Moyer said of Lombardo, a three-year starter. “He can swing it, and plays a great first base helping pick balls from our infielders all day.”
“Rahe’s on-base ability at the top of the lineup will be key to sparking our lineup,” the coach continued. “If he gets on he will run — he is our commander and leader in the outfield with his great range.”
Finally, Moyer believes Jack Robinson is another player to watch this season.
“He is our rock at shortstop and has a great lefty bat,” the coach praised. “His approach in the box has really developed and we hope to see his power to the gaps improve this year with lots of doubles.”
League-wide, it appears defending champion Palisade (24-4 overall, 12-0 league in 2022) and runner-up Rifle (20-5 overall, 9-3 league) are the top dogs until proven otherwise. With Summit (16-7 overall, 9-3 league) right there and Battle Mountain (13-11 overall, 6-6 league) holding that ever-important spot in front of the Devils, there isn’t an easy game on the schedule.
“All the games are going to be tough,” said Moyer.
“Our athletic director did a great job of getting teams to challenge our guys to go out and compete. We always look forward to our games against Battle Mountain, and Palisade has reigned supreme for many years, so you always look forward to the opportunity to play David against Goliath.”
Heading into a weekend tournament in Montrose, where the Devils will open on Friday against Alamosa before facing Montrose and Bayfield on Saturday, the expectation remains high for the year.
“We always set the bar high no matter what year it is,” Moyer said.
“We hold the standard of making the playoffs — that is always the expectation.”
Moyer said the team, which makes its home debut on March 14 against Coal Ridge, has individual and team goals. They’re hoping to lower their strikeout rate on offense and increase the walk rate, but everyone knows there’s only one way to achieve any objective — process or product-related.
“Go out and compete each and every day,” Moyer stated.
“Play to the highest level no matter the competition. If we go out and do things the right way, we will be successful, both on and off the field.”