Bulldogs’ bats catch fire in Gypsum
GYPSUM – Spring Break could have come nine innings sooner for Eagle Valley baseball. In Saturday’s doubleheader with Palisade in Gypsum, the Devils played solid ball in the first two innings of the lidlifter, but would like to forget about the rest of the 17-6 loss, and the 16-4 loss that followed. Although school let out Friday, the bulk of the Devils’ squad stuck around for Saturday’s doubledip.”There are no excuses, but it’s tough to come out and play when you just started Spring Break,” said Eagle Valley skipper Ken Reagan. “But you’ve gotta hit, pitch and field, and we didn’t do any of that.”And it didn’t help the a 9-8 loss to Glenwood on Thursday on a Demons’ walk-off homer was fresh in the Devils’ minds.
“I think what really hurt was our game against Glenwood,” Reagan said. “We fought really hard that game, and the air came out at the end. I truly believe it because (our kids) have a big rivalry with (Glenwood). When you lose one to them, they’ll hold on to it.”Eagle Valley pulled out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, then tied things up at 3-3 in the second before the Palisade bats caught fire in the third. “We finally started focusing and hitting the ball where it was pitched, and the kids came through on that,” said Palisade skipper Steve Moore. “I was pretty proud of that inning.”The Bulldogs scored 11 runs in the top half of the inning, although Devils didn’t help their own cause by committing a handful of errors.”In the first two innings of the game, we were in it, then one bad thing, two bad things, and all of a sudden the wheels fall off,” Reagan said. For the rest of the game, the two teams played even, with Palisade pitcher Matt Barnes going the distance, tossing 124 pitches. Barnes struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth to close things out. After five innings, if there is a 10-run difference, the game is called.”That’s a big thing for Matt,” Barnes said of his pitcher’s performance in final inning. “We’re looking for him to close the games. He’s thrown a lot more (pitches) than that. But he needs to spot some of his pitches better than that.”The hard-throwing Barnes walked seven Eagle Valley’s batters and hit one with a pitch. Hunter Blevins started for Eagle Valley, and had great command of the ball, although Palisade seemed to connect on everything in the third.
The Bulldogs’ Hank Stewart, hitting in the ninth spot, was an offensive juggernaut. Stewart went 5-for-6 in the two games, batting in seven runs.”He is our little spark plug – he hit the ball hard,” Moore said. “Just because you’re in the nine hole doesn’t mean you’re a bad hitter – he’s one of our better hitters.”Stewart was happy to break out of a recent slump.”I hadn’t been hitting that (well), so I practiced pretty hard this week, and my team kept encouraging me,” Stewart said. “I changed my batting stance. I had an open stance, and then I closed it up a bit and it made me stay back, and I was just ripping from there.”
Palisade’s Jordan Gunther had four hits on the day, his biggest coming in the top of the third during the nightcap. With the bases loaded and no outs, the lefty Gunther ripped a high shot over the right field fence, and was greeted by his team at homeplate.”I guess he saw that ball pretty well,” Moore said. “He hit it pretty solid and he’s been doing that all year long. He’s our cleanup hitter for a reason.”Leevi Krabbe pitched all five innings of the second game for Palisade, allowing three earned runs on six hits. Paul Suther started for the Devils, and left the game with two outs in the second. Dan McKiernan came on for a bit, and Bear Barkman and Alex Dorothy closed things out. Barkman, who replaced Blevins with one out in the third of the opener, was solid all day on the mound, as well as in the field at short and third.The Devils’ best performance came from catcher Kevin Mansfield, who was behind the plate for all 10 innings, blocking plenty of balls in the dirt. Mansfield snipped a runner attempding to steal third and snagged a handful of popups. At the plate, Mansfield came through in the clutch, driving in six runs, including a two-run double in the lidlifter.”He’s one of the better catchers in the league,” Reagan said. “He did his job back there and he has to do it for us every game.”
The Devils’ Cody Coulter came into the nightcap in the second inning and ripped a shot to left that Palisade’s Jake Appling made a diving catch on, then got up and threw the ball to the infield to turn a double play. Coulter would be on the other end of a double play in the top of the fifth when he snagged a ground, tossed it to Barkman who rifled it to McKiernan at first.Dorothy was 4-for-6 on the day, including a textbook bunt in his first at bat that loaded the bases for Eagle Valley with no outs. Herman Hogue reached base on four of his five at bats, thanks to a sharp eye. Hogue walked three times, smacked a single to deep left and was hit by a pitch. Blevins did a great job in the leadoff spot, going 2-for-3, walking twice, stealing two bases and scoring twice.Eagle Valley, which dropped to 2-4 in the 4A Western Slope and 5-5 overall, heads to Rifle Saturday for a pair of games.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.