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Devils spoil Huskies’ home opener

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
EVBB Cooper Adams PU 4-22-08
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EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” Following Battle Mountain home baseball is a lot like watching for shooting stars.

You wait, and wait and wait, and if you look away for just a second, you miss it.

The Huskies, one day after holding their first practice of the season on their field, opened their ephemeral home season Tuesday in Eagle-Vail against downvalley rivals Eagle Valley.

With plenty of practice under their belts, the Devils cruised to a 26-1 win to sweep the season series.

“Our object was to hit the ball,” said Eagle Valley skipper Ken Reagan. “They made some errors they shouldn’t have that helped us out a bunch, but other than that, we put the ball in play.”

Paul Suther went the distance for the Devils, fanning seven and allowing three hits in the five-inning game, while going 4-for-4 from the plate.

Battle Mountain manager Jason Spannagel spent the past few days getting the field ready, trying to convince people there was going to be a game, and, oh yeah, trying to get some practice time in, too.

“We were telling people, yeah, we’re really going to play here,” Spannagel said. “I spent three hours yesterday hand raking in infield.”

The Huskies have been engaged in a Sisyphean effort all season to find some green space for practice, and not have to field ground balls off a gym floor or some pavement.

“We’ve come out here a couple times to shovel, and the next day it would keep on snowing,” said Battle Mountain’s Jeremy Windham, who along with his teammates spent the first half of Monday’s practice removing snow from the backstop. “It’s a little different coming from the parking lot into the field and only playing on the field during games.”

Even with the lack of time on a field ” the batting cage still had a 1-foot snowdrift Tuesday ” Spannagel was a bit disappointed with his team’s performance.

“They are running (laps) for 12 (errors) and I said that was generous. They need to feel it every once in a while and take it seriously. When your pitchers are throwing strikes and you can get you an out, you can’t let them off the hook like that,” Spannagel said. “When they give us an out ” when they hit a flyball in the infield or outfield, we have to capitalize on that, and it’s not too much to ask for from these guys.”

Eagle Valley exacerbated each error with some crushing hits. Devils second baseman Robert Padgett had a pair of two-run homers, while shortstop Jack Barbella had a two-run dinger to opposite field, was four-for-five and scored four runs.

“That was my first (homer),” said Barbella, a sophomore whose glove is a natural magnet for ground balls. “It felt great. I thought it was a little fly, but it kept going.”

The Devils’ Hunter Blevins was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and three RBI, while teammate Nick Whitehead reached base on all six plate appearances and scored five runs. Cody Coulter doubled twice and passed home four times, while Willie Williamson went 2-for-3 and drove in a pair.

Suther beguiled Battle Mountain hitters with his array of pitches and shifty delivery.

“I try to hide it a bit so they can’t tell,” Suther said of his windup. “I change my arm motion a bit when I throw.”

Reagan is happy with how Suther has performed all season, and loves his big bag of tricks.

“That’s the best thing about him,” Reagan said. “He’s got an OK fastball and it moves a little bit, but he’s got a curveball, a knuckleball, a split-finger ” he’s got everything.”

Suther had retired the first six batter when Battle Mountain’s Jackson Salamunovich ripped an opposite-field single to start the third. The Huskies’ run came in the fourth when first baseman Mike Jones knocked a single and catcher R.D. Cordova followed up with a double down the left field line.

Windham pitched two innings, while Daniel Rascon took to the mound for one and Dustin Martin threw the final two.

With the win, Eagle Valley closes out its 4A Western Slope season at 9-5, and will host Summit Friday. Battle Mountain (0-12) heads to Moffat County for a twinbill Saturday, then closes out its home schedule next Tuesday against Summit.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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