Devils baseball wins eighth straight title |

Devils baseball wins eighth straight title

Ryan Slabaugh

Eagle Valley baseball, coming in tied with Meeker for the lead in the 3A Western Slope, took both sides of the doubleheader from the Cowboys Saturday at the Eagle County Fairgrounds to clinch its eighth straight conference title. The Devils won 7-0 and 13-3.

“It’s playoff time now,” Devils manager Robert Ellsworth said. “I told them before the game we had to go out and win one game at a time. I’m pleased and proud. Again, we did what it takes.”

The first game was scoreless going into the fourth inning before senior Micah Bernhardt hit his first home run of the season – a three-run blast on a hanging curveball that made it 4-0. The Devils (15-4 overall, 7-1 in the league) tacked on three more in same inning and finished the game without any other player crossing the plate.

Senior Nolan Royle picked up the shutout win.

In the second game, Eagle Valley jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning, behind a pair of Meeker errors and a T.J. Stanford double. Meeker closed the score to 4-3 before the Devils answered with three runs of their own in the second, three in the third, two in the fourth and a single run in the fifth that caused the game to end from the 10-run rule.

“The thing that hurts us is it’s prom night –we were thinking of other things,” Cowboys coach Dave McGraw said. “I’m proud of our kids. They had a good season. But Eagle Valley’s a tough team.”

Junior catcher Justin Wood did the damage for the Devils, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs and a stolen base. On top of the offense, Wood tagged on two diving catches – one at full extension behind home plate in the fifth inning – that stymied any Meeker (12-7, 5-3) rally.

“Those were web gems,” Ellsworth said. “He would have won an ESPY (award) for any one of them.”

Bernhardt tagged on three runs in game two, while junior Jason Leniger also scored twice. Stanford started the game, going three innings and striking out six. Bernhardt pitched the last two, giving up two hits and no runs.

The Devils now advance to the district tournament. By winning the league, Eagle Valley will receive a bye in Tuesday’s pigtail games. The Devils will host either Hotchkiss or Basalt Friday at 4 p.m. at the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

HOT TOPICS: Justin Wood’s two fielding plays in game two had the crowd cooing. Wood’s first came in the fourth inning, when he leapt against the backstop to snag a foul ball. The other came in the fifth on a shallow foul ball that he had to dive backward for… With rain and snow on the horizon, the Devils needed just one run to end the game by the 10-run rule. Wood singled, was sacrificed to second by senior Jose Meza, and scored on a Tony Davis single… Meeker brought just one van for the trip, but had seniors wanting to get back to the prom. With a little flexibility, they all found truck rides back for the big dance.

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