The longest loss

Baseball team ends season with 10-inning thriller

Members of the Moffat County baseball team stood around the truck bed silently. They were trying to sort through the swarming emotions in their heads after the season finished before they had hoped: it hurt, it was exhausting and it was over.

The No. 6 seeded in the Class 4A bracket Bulldogs expected to at least get into the district championship in Craig on Saturday. But a fundamentally sound No. 27 seed Silver Creek team had other plans.

The outcome hurt because, despite not earning a hit for six innings, the Bulldogs still had several chances to win the game.

It was exhausting because the game went 10 innings and was an emotional rollercoaster for everybody involved.

It was over because the Raptors scored two runs in the top of the 10th, and the Bulldogs couldn't answer, losing 7-5.

"We gave it everything we had," teary-eyed senior Brian Behrman said. "In the game of baseball, there are times when things don't go your way, and they didn't today."

Everything had gone the Bulldogs' way in the regular season. They went undefeated in the Western Slope Lea--gue, and their two losses outside of the league came in games that they didn't play with their best lineup.

That said, the Western Slope League is no Northern League. Silver Creek finished ninth in the league that is consistently among the best in Colorado.

"We need to figure out a way to see competition like that on a more regular basis," Moffat coach Rich Sadvar said. "We need to see an upper level of pitching."

The Bulldogs were kept off-balance by the Raptors' pitcher, junior Josh Gordon. Despite arm cramps from the fifth inning on, Gordon struck out eight batters in seven full innings of pitching.

"We were tight at the plate for four to five innings," Sadvar said.

Through six innings, the Bulldogs didn't get a hit. Yet, they were only down 2-0, helped by another superb pitching performance by senior Bryan Wojtkiewicz.

"I felt good on the mound," Wojtkiewicz said. "My command was there."

Wojtkiewicz pitched out of trouble in the second and fourth innings when multiple runners were on base with less than two outs. In the fifth, he ran into some trouble.

After giving up a lead-off double to senior Kyle Gunther, the Bulldog defense made costly mistakes. Gunther was safe at third when a bunt by junior Tyler Keith wasn't fielded in time to get anybody out.

Gunther then scored when Behrman misplayed a throw to second during a double steal.

"You can't give good teams those small things," Sadvar said. "Throughout the game, we didn't do the small things right that we did during the rest of the season."

Three batters later, Gordon hit an RBI double to put the Raptors up 2-0.

Gordon was three outs from a no-hitter in the seventh when senior Reid Hanneman stepped up with no outs and Wojtkiewicz on first base after a walk.

Hanneman stopped the no-hitter and tied the game with one swing. His line drive cleared the left center field fence to tie the game.

Sophomore Jordan Williams followed the home run with a double to right center field. Gordon got junior Billy Ivy to strike out, Berhman to pop out and junior Chris Winder to strike out to strand Williams and send the game into extra innings.

Leaving Williams on second started a trend for the Bulldogs. They came close to victory three more times but never succeeded.

In the top of the eighth, Silver Creek junior Chaz Kramer hit a two-out solo home run off of Wojtkiewicz to put the Raptors up, 3-2.

The lead would last two pitches in the bottom of the eighth. Moffat junior Bryan Richards hit Andrew Ryan's second pitch of the game over the fence in straightaway center field. Two strikeouts and a pop out ended the Bulldogs' second chance to win the game.

In the top of the ninth, back-to-back fielding errors by the Bulldogs helped the Raptors add two runs to go ahead, 5-3.

"We didn't play our baseball," said Winder, who had one of the errors. "The plays we would normally make didn't happen."

In the bottom of the ninth, the Bulldogs led off with four consecutive hits. Unfortunately for the home team, Ivy was thrown out at second after senior Kyle Sorensen's RBI single.

Later in the inning, Sorenson scored on a controversial call when he got to home plate before Behrman was tagged out with the bases loaded. Initially, the umpires didn't allow Sorensen's run, but after Moffat coaches argued that because Behrman was tagged the run counted, the run was allowed.

What stung for Moffat was that Ivy would have scored if he was still on, and Sorensen's run would have been the winner.

Moffat ran out of answers in the 10th inning.

Again Silver Creek added two runs in the top of the inning.

In the bottom of the 10th, Rap--tor senior Mike Farren--kopf retired the Bulldogs to end the game with a 7-5 win.

"In our league, you're in a dogfight three nights a week," Silver Creek coach Trevor Platt said. "It was our team's first postseason win in five seasons, and the guys came out wanting it today."

For the Bulldogs, who returned all but one starter from a team that made the district title game last year, the bed of a truck, away from everyone but their teammates, was the best place for solace.

They agreed that everyone on the team could have performed better in some way to get the win.

But there was no finger-pointing, which is a sign of a team whose members played for one another since last summer.

"We preached team all year," Sadvar said. "For those guys not to finger-point after a tough loss like that, it builds a foundation for playing like that next year."

The ones who aren't coming back -- Wojtkiewicz, Hanne--man, Behrman, Sorensen, Caleb Owens and Wacie Laabs -- can take pride in sweeping Rifle for the first time in 10 years, the first league title since 2000 and leading one of the best Bulldog teams in some time.

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