Eagle Valley softball falls to Palisade
The little things undo Devils
GYPSUM — Usually a 19-6 loss really can’t be written off as just a bad break or two because there’s the not-so-small matter of that 13-run margin.
But really, Eagle Valley softball was just a few plays away in its 19-6 loss to Palisade on Tuesday afternoon at the Gypsum Sports Complex.
Two small plays in the top of the fourth, to be precise, with Palisade leading just 5-3 sent the game spinning off its axis.
“I think they’re seeing how they need to stay mentally tough through the inning,” first-year Devils manager Matt Kreutzer said. “Every out is a difficult out. They have to keep working.”
With a runner on first, the Bulldogs’ Niviya Rivera hit what was a routine ground ball to Eagle Valley shortstop Mya Bishop. Bishop rightly thought double play and started to look to turn it, but Palisade had started the runner.
With Palisade’s Melissa Carrol coming into second, Bishop rushed the grab and both runners were safe. Bishop redeemed herself with a heads-up play, throwing out Carrol at third on a ground ball for the second out of the inning.
Meanwhile, pitcher Shay Jones induced a comebacker that should have been the third out, only to have first-baseman Vanessa Duarte drop the throw.
The end result was 14-run Palisade inning, in which 13 of the runs were unearned. As in every team sport of any season, one wins as a team or loses as such. The loss was not on Bishop or Duarte. It’s merely an illustration of how the slightest miscues can alter a game.
“I honestly think it’s a mental game. It’s all about your mental ability,” senior catcher Tori Stone said. “Sometimes, we let it get the best of us and I think we need to work on that, but we’re a solid team. It’s the beginning of a season with a new coach, but I think we’re going to be good.”
Lost in the Palisade fourth-inning outburst was that Eagle Valley (1-4) does bring some intrigue to the diamond. In a time when baseball is all about the long ball, the Devils played small ball.
Here’s an interesting stat: Eagle Valley scored six runs on all of two hits. The Devils drew walks and took one for the team — six times. That is not a typo, six times hit by pitch.
And when the Devils got on base, they ran. Eagle Valley gave Palisade fits with its running game. In the second inning, Eagle Valley’s Katie Martin got hit, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Duarte sacrifice grounder.
When Martin stole second, it was actually part of a double steal with teammate Kalie Roybal swiping home. Palisade probably didn’t execute defensively well on the play, but putting pressure on the defense forces mistakes.
That same inning Cody Eaton drew a free pass, stole second, moved to third on the Duarte sacrifice and came home on A.J. Martinez’s base hit.
After allowing five runs in the first to Palisade, Devils pitcher Jones had a 1-2-3 inning in the second and pitched through an error in the third for another scoreless frame.
“She’s our rock,” Kreutzer said. “She’s hitting her spots. We’ve got to work behind her. She’s doing everything we could ask of her.”
As you wish
So how does a team get the experience to learn how to make the plays at the critical moments? The solution is simple.
“They need to play, play, play,” Kreutzer said.
Ask and ye shall receive. The Devils host Rifle in another Western Slope tilt on Thursday and then have the Sheridan Tournament (three more games) this weekend.