After early trouble, Devils keep composure in split
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM ” Four batters into Saturday’s doubleheader against Moffat County in Gypsum, Eagle Valley was already down, 3-0, and looked to be in for a long day.
“We were thinking, ‘Here we go again,'” said the Devils’ Dan McKiernan.
And right after Moffat County’s Anthony Flores launched his three-run homer that fired up his team, Eagle Valley starter Hunter Blevins walked the next two batters.
But Blevins found his composure and worked out of the jam, much like he would do two innings later when the first two Moffat batters reached base, and the Devils rallied to beat the Bulldogs, 6-5. Moffat, however, came back in Game 2 to crush Eagle Valley, 8-2. The Devils (9-4 in the 4A Western Slope) were looking for at least a split against the Bulldogs (7-3) to stay in the top half of the league.
“We got swept by Palisade, lost one to Steamboat (Wednesday), and you want to put that one behind you. That was our goal the first game, get it out of our minds,” said Eagle Valley skipper Ken Reagan. “That’s why I was so proud of them. We could have fallen down (after trailing early).”
Moffat manager Tim Hafey was pleased with his team’s first inning of the opener, but not much else.
“I chewed them in between games, and I think they came out with some resolve,” Hafey said. “In the second game, they stayed up every inning.”
Moffat pitcher Chris Winder shut down Eagle Valley in the nightcap, taking a no-hitter in the final inning, while the Bulldogs found their stroke at the plate early and often.
“He dominated,” Hafey said of Winder. “He’s an outstanding high school baseball player. He’s a great middle infielder and a great pitcher.”
Early in Game 1, it looked as though the only doubles that were going to come off Eagle Valley bats were double plays. Moffat closed out the first and second innings with twin-killings. But in the third, after Moffat retired the first two Eagle Valley batters, the Devils loaded the bases on a Jack Barbella hit and back-to-back walks to Nick Whitehead and Hunter Blevins. McKiernan came though in the clutch, blasting a two-run single to left field, cutting the Moffat lead to 3-2.
“We kept going and going and going from there,” McKiernan said. “Cody (Coulter) got a clutch hit. Nick got a clutch hit, Jack (Barbella) had one. Everybody was doing it.”
In the fourth, Aaron Hakes and Paul Suther kicked things off for the Devils with consecutive singles. Following a Ryan McClintock sacrifice bunt, Coulter smacked a two-run single. Barbella then singled, which set up Whitehead’s two-run triple to left center, which would have been a dinger in any other section of the park.
With Blevins reaching his maximum pitch count in the fourth inning, Reagan went to his Game 2 starter, McKiernan.
“We had our two No. 1s, and we wanted to go after it the first game and wanted that one game,” Reagan said. “It was nice both those guys put it together.”
The first batter McKiernan faced, Russell Waugh, reached on an error and made his way to third base. Unfazed, McKiernan struck out the next three batters. Then, in the sixth, after McKiernan walked Winder and gave up back-to-back RBI doubles, he punched out the next three batters. In the seventh, McKiernan caught the first two batters looking and then, after falling behind, 3-0, to Moffat’s Brian Williams, battled back to pick up his ninth strikeout in three innings along with a big save. The previous Saturday, McKiernan came into the game with a one-run lead against Delta and hung on for the save.
“I love (pressure),” he said. “I feed off it. But it’s definitely nerve-racking.
“I had to back up Hunter and my team, and my arm was feeling great. It’s just the second game that got to me. I was getting tired eventually.”
McKiernan started Game 2 and didn’t receive a warm welcome from the Bulldogs, who put up three runs and made McKiernan toss 33 pitches; McKiernan recorded three more strikeouts in the inning. Moffat added a pair of runs in the third before Suther replaced McKiernan. Suther went 31⁄3 innings, giving up just one run ” a solo shot by Moffat’s Josh Satterwittle.
Winder, who added a solo shot in the sixth, worked the Eagle Valley lineup with just two pitches.
“All I threw was fastball and curveball,” said Winder, who pitched his third complete game of the season.
Although Eagle Valley had stranded seven men heading into the final frame, Winder still hadn’t surrendered a hit ” he had walked six, and Whitehead reached on a hard-hit ball to third that Waugh bobbled for an error. Winder started the seventh by fanning Hakes and then issued a walk to Robert Padgett. McClintock, who had yet to register a hit on the day, cracked an RBI double, while Barbella drove him home with a single later in the inning. Winder finished with 12 strikeouts and walked eight.
The Devils are scheduled to play Battle Mountain on Tuesday in Eagle-Vail.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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