Never before did the saying "it all comes down to this" ring more true for the Moffat County High School boys baseball team.
The Bulldogs are in Rifle today for a showdown with the Bears and, if the first game was any indication, it will be another classic clash.
The game today is one of three remaining in the regular season for MCHS. One in Rifle and two against Palisade on Saturday and then it's off to the regional playoffs. Or, if the Bulldogs are able to win, then the team stays at home for the regional playoffs.
First things first for MCHS: a game against the Bears and Jason Enewold.
Last time the teams met, Enewold out-pitched MCHS ace Jerod Estey in a 6-4 win in extra innings. Bulldogs coach Scott Parker spent the last part of practice on Wednesday talking to his players about their approach at the plate the last time the two teams clashed.
"We talked about how they should expect a first-pitch strike and to be ready for it," he said. "We got down in the count and were afraid of having two strikes last time against him."
Rifle and Delta currently sit at 8-1 in the conference, while the Bulldogs are 7-2. The Panthers and the Bears meet in a double-header Saturday but Parker doesn't want to think about those games.
"We have to beat Rifle to have any chance to win the league," he said. "We will only worry about ourselves this week."
What's at stake is more than the league title. The first-place team in conference will earn a top seed in one of the eight regional tournaments in the state. Most likely the other three teams that qualify for the regional will travel.
"From my coaching experience in the Tri Valley league (a Greely-area league)," Parker said, "we can play with anybody on the Front Range, but it would be nice to do it here."
Before they can think about the Front Range and the playoffs, the Bulldogs have to get through today. After winning eight straight, the team is in a mini-slump, losing two of its last four games.
Parker said that losses have been a combination of a breakdown in the basics and mental mistakes. The team hasn't played since Thursday and with that practice time it has worked on those aspects of the game.
"We went back to the basics," Parker said. "We stressed eliminating the mental mistakes and limiting the physical mistakes."
The final home games of the regular season against Palisade will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Craig