All-league honors cap off Devils’ banner year
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado ” When teams exit early from the playoffs, the players often look forward to postseason awards.
Eagle Valley baseball’s Nick Whitehead wasn’t waiting for anything ” his season was already complete.
“It was good for us to make the playoffs,” Whitehead said. “That’s all I was excited about.”
But just in case Whitehead and some teammates didn’t have enough to take away from the Devils’ 14-6 season, there are a few more feathers to add to their caps. Whitehead and Hunter Blevins were named to the 4A Western Slope All-Conference team, while Paul Suther, Jack Barbella and Willie Williamson were honorable mention. Palisade’s Steve Moore was the Coach of the Year while Palisade’s shortstop/pitcher Travis Del Moral was the Player of the year.
“It was nice to get all those guys on the team and get that recognition,” said Eagle Valley manager Ken Reagan. “In years past, we’ve only had two or three guys get that recognition.”
The Devils, who went 9-5 in league play and finished tied for third with Delta, made their first appearance in the postseason since 2002, then they were still a 3A team. Eagle Valley lost its first-round matchup to Conifer, 16-2 in Lakewood Saturday.
Whitehead, a senior center fielder, had a great year at the plate from the No. 2 spot, hitting .450 with 26 runs, 24 RBI, 25 stolen bases, three triples and a homer.
“Last year I hit .530, but this year I was hitting the ball further,” Whitehead said.
In the field, Whitehead was perfect, catching every fly ball that came his way.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” he said.
Blevins, who hit from the three and four spot, had a .422 average with 28 runs, 17 stolen bases and three dingers. From the mound, the senior had a great regular season, going 4-2, with a 2.25 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 11 walks. When not on the mound, Blevins split time between third and first, where he was equally proficient.
“Those two guys were solid all year,” Reagan said.
Both Whitehead and Blevins will play in the All-Conference All-Star game May 27th in Rifle.
“I’m looking forward to being around a bunch of good ballplayers,” Blevins said.
Eagle Valley pitcher Dan McKiernan would have likely been named to the team, but he was ejected from a game earlier in the season when an umpire didn’t agree with McKiernan’s body language after several pitches.
McKiernan, a senior, went 5-2 with a 3.35 ERA and had 49 whiffs to his 18 walks. As the cleanup hitter, McKiernan had a .460 average, knocked in 23 runs and had five doubles.
In his role as a relief pitcher and a starter, Suther went a perfect 3-0 on the year and had a 5.02 ERA. Suther, a senior who played first base as well, went .358 from the plate with 15 hits and a pair of stolen bases.
Barbella, the sophomore shortstop, ruled the infield with an iron fist for Eagle Valley.
“He got a couple votes for All-Conference, which was nice,” Reagan said.
From the plate, Barbella hit .404, scored 22 runs, batted in 20, stole 21 bases and hit his first career homer; Barbella also pitched a bit and went 1-0 with a 4.25 ERA.
Williamson showed great poise behind the plate for a sophomore, and gave the Devils clutch hitting as well, holding a .404 average with 21 hits and 21 RBI.
Whitehead is glad that a pair of underclassman were recognized.
“It means we have a future in baseball at Eagle Valley again,” he said.
Reagan finished his second year as skipper, while coach Rob Ellsworth was alongside him again.
“We’ve had coaches leaving every year so far, but the fact that Ken and Rob have stuck it out is awesome,” Whitehead said.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.
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