The Front Range fears should no longer be an excuse for the Moffat County baseball team after this summer.
An American Legion baseball schedule of 50 games during May, June and July includes only four games against Western Slope teams.
"We want these guys to know that they can play with anybody," Legion coach Bob Satterwhite said. "The last two summers, we haven't seen a bit of tightness against Front Range teams. We schedule them so our kids know they can beat other good teams."
Saturday in Craig the Bulldogs faced Woodland Park, a school near Colorado Springs, in a doubleheader.
The Panthers had similar results to the Bulldogs in the high school season. They made the Class 4A playoffs with a 12-7 overall record and 9-5 result against teams in the Colorado Springs Metro League.
Just as their records are similar, they matched each other close to equally in a split of the doubleheader.
In game one, the Bulldogs kept the Panthers off the board until the sixth inning while putting up seven runs through six.
Bryan Richards and Bryan Wojtkiewicz hit home runs in Craig's five-run fifth inning. Richards added another home run in the sixth to put his team up 8-1. "Richards has been hitting the ball well this summer," Satterwhite said. "He's had seven home runs in seven games now."
Billy Ivy shut out Woodland Park through three innings and Kyle Sorensen allowed one run in his first three innings against the visitors.
In the seventh Sorensen gave up a three-run home run and left the game after walking the bases loaded with one out.
Wojtkiewicz came on and allowed one run, but retired the next two batters to close out an 8-5 victory.
"In the summer we look for leaders to step up," Satterwhite said. "Woj has been coming in and shutting people down to show his leadership."
In game two, base-running mistakes cost the Bulldogs. Thoughthe Bulldogs had more than 10 hits, they only managed three runs. Pitcher Robbie Daniels allowed three runs in three innings and Wojtkiewicz allowed one run in three innings worked.
The 4-3 loss stung more because the Bulldogs had runners in scoring position late in the game, but "they were picked off or thrown out," Satterwhite said.
"We never put an inning together in game two. In the summer you tend to be over-aggressive on the bases sometimes. The kids tested some things they wouldn't in a playoff game. It's frustrating to lose base runners but in the summer we're more relaxed about those things."
The Legion team is now 5-3 for the summer. The team faces Steamboat Springs at Craig Middle School Tuesday.
Friday they take off on a road trip that will include games in Wyoming, Nebraska and Denver the next two weeks. Satterwhite predicted they would play 25 games during that stretch.
"I've coached in Craig for almost 15 years now and this may be the most-balanced team I've coached," he said. "Once everybody gets on the same page that they can play with anybody, we'll be in good shape."