Battle Mountain baseball falls to Summit 8-3
Two-run fourth inning dooms Huskies
Battle Mountain fell behind 3-1 in the first inning, rallied to tie in the third, but made too many miniature mental mistakes in the field during a critical two-run fourth, ultimately falling to Summit 8-3 Wednesday afternoon in Edwards.
“It’s frustrating when you know you’re physically capable of competing,” coach Harrison Stevens said, summarizing his post-game message in the dugout after the Huskies (8-8), fell out of position to claim an automatic postseason birth as one of the top-two teams in the 4A Western Slope League.
Trailing 3-1 in the top of the third (with the game originally scheduled to take place at Summit, the hosting Huskies were the away team), Battle Mountain loaded the bases as Elijah Morales, who slammed two home-runs against Cedaredge on Monday, stepped up to the plate. Summit (10-6) elected to walk Morales, bringing in a run.
Kade Matus’ sacrifice fly drove in Vincent Nowicki to tie the game 3-3 before the Huskies stranded two men on base to end the half-inning. In the bottom half, Morales struck out the last two batters to hold Summit scoreless.
“He just gave us a super-competitive start and gave us a shot to win,” Stevens said of Morales, whom he noted hasn’t pitched a lot this year.
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“He just gutted it out. I’m super proud of him.”
Summit pitcher Zach Wilms, who struck out nine and allowed one run in the April 27 win over Battle Mountain, escaped the fourth in as few pitches as possible, retiring the order, three up, three down.
Jax Boyd, who went 2-for-3 on the day, led off the pivotal fourth inning with a center field line drive. Morales chased down Charlie Pedigo’s bunt at the next at bat, throwing the senior out at first. Then, Jack Schierholz launched a deep drive that went over Nowicki’s head in centerfield. The triple drove in Boyd. With a man on third, Morales caught Breciken Perlow swinging, a huge strikeout with a runner in scoring position. Will Koll’s grounder was mishandled by Tanner Roberts, however, driving in a second run.
In the fifth, the Huskies missed two chances to end the inning without allowing a run, but an unforced error off a shallow pop fly made it 6-3 Tigers.
“All it takes is a stopper,” Stevens reflected on the momentum shift.
“We need a guy who wants the baseball to come to him, is going to make a play, and is going to get us out of the inning. It’s a matter of every guy making the commitment to being that guy that wants the next play.”
Summit scored twice more in the sixth, pushing the final to 8-3. After his infield fly ended the game, Nowicki threw his helmet, seemingly acting out the visible frustration on the face of his teammates. Afterwards, Stevens reminded his team that they possess the physical tools to compete, but need to practice at game speed to make routine plays automatic in games.
“If we treat our practice reps with game-like intensity, then the game doesn’t speed up on us,” he said.
“It’s not a switch that you can turn off and on.”
The coach felt simple errors on offense and defensive cost the team.
“We are a talented team and for us, it comes down to the little mental things that make a difference in the game,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of us getting back to work and continuing to teach those little things and reiterating the importance of having a quality mentality every single pitch — and you know that goes back on the coaches. Making sure they’re physically prepared and also mentally prepared and mentally locked in for all 120 pitches of a game.“
The head coach remains optimistic with two weeks left in the regular season.
“If we can do that, I still think we can compete with anybody,” he stated.
“We hit the ball well today, so that was a bright spot.”
With six games remaining, five of which are league games, Stevens knows everyone in the Western Slope is competitive.
“Summit’s a quality program, and their coaches are doing things right over there,“ he said. He also knows consistent focus and execution of the fundamentals will be key in extending his team’s season.
“All those little things add up to the big things. We’ve got to get away from being outcome-focused and be more focused on what needs to happen next.”
Battle Mountain fell to Summit 8-3 Wednesday afternoon in Edwards. | Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily