'Dogs to overcome pre-season stigma

Moffat County High school baseball team to do better than a seventh-place ranking

Dissatisfaction is what Moffat County High School coach Kip Hafey was met with when his baseball players found out where they fell in pre-season rankings.

The Rocky Mountain News placed the Moffat County Bulldogs, who went 14-9 and one round into the state playoff, seventh and just ahead of Cheyenne Mountain, the team who knocked them out of the state tournament.

Seventh place is the highest preseason ranking MCHS has ever been granted but the Bulldogs aren't satisfied with the lower half of the top 10.

"I had a group of guys come up to me after the rankings were released to tell me they're seventh. All they could say was, 'that's six lower than we want to be,'" Hafey said. "It shows how much these guys want it this year that they're not satisfied with settling with seventh place."

The Bulldogs start their title run tonight in the regular season opener against Union, Utah. Not much is known about the Union squad other than it is in a comparable class to Moffat County and they won state a few years back, Hafey said.

The Bulldogs go start the season down six solid hitters who graduated last year. Many of those seniors also subbed as utility players when called on.

Hafey said he knows that except for Saturday's scrimmage in Grand Junction his players haven't touched a diamond since 2001.

And he knows he has two of Class 4A's top pitchers in senior Chris Field and junior Jerod Estey.

The six seniors lost last year included Rob Satterwhite and Kevin Voorhees.

Satterwhite was the Bulldogs' long-ball hitter for the past two years, leading Class 4A in homeruns in 2000. Last season he led his team with six and held the fifth-best average at .355.

Voorhees was the No. 1 contact man for the Bulldogs, tying Satterwhite with 27 hits and had the second most trips across the plate, scoring 23 runs.

"The six seniors are a tough loss for us but they've left a legacy with these guys," Hafey said. "They really pushed the guys we have now and instilled leadership in this year's seniors. They're the reason we're expected to do so well."

The Bulldogs return 11 players from 2001 and add seven freshmen.

The Bulldogs return with four pitchers - two who are considered among the best in the state. Field and Estey were named as the News' "Top Players," both with an ERA below four and 69 strikeouts between them.

Both pitchers suffered injuries in 2001 but both said they shouldn't be held back by them.

"Estey and I feel we have 15 games in us this season and hopefully 15 wins," Field said. "I think we have the endurance to make it through the year."

Returning along with the state-touted pitchers is nearly the entire hitting core for the Bulldogs. Estey and Field's names once again grace the top of the list with the duo owning the two best averages at .368 and .362 respectively. Field was also the No. 1 RBI hitter by the end of the year, scoring 18 runners.

Senior Shane Burum is expected to take his place as one to the team's top hitters, as well, ending last season hitting .359.

The Bulldogs also have a contention of returning players and junior varsity players who will figure into Hafey's game plan.

"These guys are looking for a championship and with the work they put in this winter, it shows the determination they have in getting one," Hafey said. "There's still a lot of good players in the Western Slope Conference and we'll have to play hard all season. But we've got a group of guys to do it."

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