Devils baseball takes three in Paonia
PAONIA ” The key to high school baseball is simple ” pitching depth.
Every team has a good pitcher it can trot out for the front end of a doubleheader. But what happens in the nightcap or when postponed games, as they often do, get piled up back-to-back? What happens when your ace has an off-day?
Eagle Valley baseball answered that question well last weekend by displaying its depth on the mound at the season-opening Paonia Tournament. Despite not getting good starting pitching in two of their three games, the Devils went 3-0 to win the round-robin.
“I think we did pretty well,” Devils manager Ken Reagan said. “We didn’t have the best performance from our starters, but the huge thing was our guys in relief. They came in and stopped the bleeding.”
And Eagle Valley’s offense made itself heard, scoring 33 runs in three games, another nice portent as the 4A Slope slate starts with a doubleheader in Palisade Saturday.
In the opener against Bayfield, Devils starter Hunter Blevins had a quick and easy first inning, but struggled with his command (seven walks) after that and left the game with a 9-6 lead. Dan McKiernan surrendered the lead on unearned runs, leaving the Wolverines leading 11-9.
Ryan McClintock started the comeback with Eagle Valley’s first tater of the season. Blevins, having moved to third base after starting, singled, stole second and came home on a Nick Whitehead single.
Tied at 11 going into the bottom of the sixth ” the final inning of the game because of a time limit for the tournament ” McKiernan singled and stole second. Speed on the base paths was key last weekend as the Devils stole a whopping 26 bags. Seth Williamson, better known in the dugout as Willie, was the hero with a walk-off single for Eagle Valley’s first win.
Against Cedaredge, Paul Suther twirled a three-hitter with five strikeouts in Eagle Valley’s 11-1 win. Blevins crushed a grand slam and Whitehead left the yard with a two-run shot as the Devils 10-runned the Bruins in five innings.
In the finale against Paonia, McClintock struggled in the first inning, but Jack Barbella came in and went the rest of the way, scattering two hits and whiffing seven. Williamson led the attack with 3 RBIs, while McKiernan had two hits.
With lots of twinbills coming in league play, pitching depth will be key for the Devils. With six days off between the Paonia tournament and Saturday’s pair with Palisade, Reagan will reset his rotation with Blevins and McKiernan starting against the Bulldogs.
Also critical will be the Devils’ approach to the game situations. Eagle Valley committed a few costly errors in Paonia, but rebounded well as a team.
“That’s huge,” Reagan said. “Last year, we would have started yelling at each other on the bench. Instead, we came out and hit the ball. It’s something we’ve talked about the whole preseason, attitude. Baseball is 90 percent mental. These guys have the physical tools, they’ve just got to get it mentally, and I think it’s working.”
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