Armed and dangerous

MCHS baseball team heads into regionals

When it came to obtaining a scouting report for this weekend's regional playoffs, Moffat County High School coach Scott Parker didn't have to dig too deep.

Last year at this time, he was in his ninth year as an assistant coach for Fort Morgan, a team that played in the same league as Greeley West, the host of the Bulldogs' regional.

"I've got a good idea of what West can bring," he said. "I think the top-three teams on the Western Slope are comparable to the teams in the league that West plays in."

Greeley West is not a certain opponent for Moffat County quite yet. In the new format for Colorado high school baseball, 32 teams make the post season. The teams are then seeded and the top eight become the host schools for a single elimination tournament and the winner of each makes the final eight and the state tournament.

The Bulldogs are seeded 23 and face the 10th-ranked Broomfield Bears. Greeley West is the seventh seed opens up the weekend with a team Moffat County is familiar with, 26th seed Glenwood Springs.

For MCHS to make it past this weekend, Parker has stressed all week the things that won them games in the regular season -- defense. The backbone of the defense is the pitching staff. The three pitchers who are on call this weekend are Jerod Estey, Eric Bastow and Jon Bugay. All three are seniors and hope to lead their team to the final eight.

"I can already smell the state playoffs," said Bastow, who went 1-3 with an ERA of 5.07 in the regular season.

"I like this new format because it feels more like a playoff atmosphere early instead of playing the teams we already know."

What the Bulldogs know about Broomfield is that it is a good hitting team. The scouting report on the 13-6 team shows that it brings big bats and fair defense to the park. Moffat County will try to counter the big bats with Estey, who finished the season 6-2 with a 1.63 ERA.

"Our pitching staff is one of the main keys," Estey said. "We have to set the pace for

the team."

Estey is coming off of his toughest outing of the season in an 11-7 loss to Palisade. He said he feels ready for the start of the playoffs.

"I've had a week off and I feel fresh," he said. "I've had some of my better games with some time off before."

If the hard throwing left-hander can lead the Bulldogs to a win in the first game, their next opponent will see a different approach from the mound. Bugay (3-2, 6.62 ERA) and Bastow are self admitted junk pitchers who rely more on their breaking stuff than their heater.

"We know we have to stay focused and do what we have to do to win," said Bugay. "This will be a pretty big stage for us to play on."

Parker said the improvement from Bastow and Bugay has been an asset to the team this year.

"Both of those guys haven't pitched a whole lot before this year," he said. "Bastow's record doesn't show how well he pitched for us down the stretch and Bugay picked up a big win for us against Palisade in the final game of the regular season."

The coach also didn't shy away from the "defense wins championships" adage.

"We have to do the fundamentals in the field right," he said. "Our record and seed would be a lot better if it weren't for some poorly timed errors in the field this season."

Parker hasn't let his team forget completely about its offense, either, this week in preparation for the playoffs. The team has hit live pitching every day in practice.

"We have a lot of kids who can pitch that threw batting practice for us," he said. "We've go to keep the bats warm with a week off."

The team left this morning to get to Greeley in time for an afternoon practice. The game against Broomfield is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Butler Field.

"We've been working on getting here since being in the gym in February, so this is an exciting weekend for us," Parker said. "We'll take it one pitch at a time and see what we're capable of."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

Commenting has been disabled for this item.