Nobody appreciates warm spring weather more than Moffat County High School baseball coach Kip Hafey.
The break in the blustery Yampa Valley climate has allowed Hafey's bat-swinging Bulldogs their first week of outdoor practice and the improvement was already seen in Tuesday's 10-0 trouncing of their conference rivals, the Steamboat Springs Sailors.
With the week of practice under their belts the 'Dogs looked that much sharper in their win over Steamboat.
They reduced their fielding errors to one from an average of five when they were practicing on the hardwood and improved their hitting by only striking out four times, compared to the 10 times they averaged in the six previous games.
"The improvement is great and was easy to see today against Steamboat," Hafey said. "The guys have really picked it up with just one week on the dirt."
The Bulldogs took an early 6-0 jump on the Sailors (0-7) in the bottom of the first inning by knocking in four RBIs and stealing home twice.
Junior Jerod Estey was the first to steal home followed by Jon Bugay, who stole it late in the inning off a wild pitch.
By the bottom of the third, the Bulldogs (4-3) were up on the Sailors 7-0 and a first-pitch home run by senior David Corriveau followed by an RBI single by senior Shane Burum set the team up for a ten-run rule win in the fifth.
It was Corriveau who closed the game out in the fifth when the Sailors David May threw a wild pitch creating a race between Corriveau and the catcher that the Bulldogs' third baseman won.
"The kids know we're in league and have to pick up their play," Hafey said. "They were playing more disciplined and were really up for the game."
What stifled the Sailors hitting was the senior-junior combination of Chris Field and Estey on the mound. The pitchers allowed only four hits and struck out eight Sailors to shutout Steamboat.
Field pitched three innings for the win while Estey closed out the last two for the save.
"The bottom line is we had no run production against Moffat County," Steamboat coach Sean Hicks said. "It's hard to score runs when you're down two outs in every inning before you get your first hit."
The conference-opening win is just what the Bulldogs needed, in many of the players opinions, to drag them out of a somewhat muddled 3-3 season start.
All the improvement goes back to one factor for Moffat County being outside to practice.
"Just being able to see the ball coming off a live bat has helped us improve," junior outfielder Eric Bastow said. "We're coming to play and only getting better as the season goes on."