New coach, new field, new outlook | CraigDailyPress.com

New coach, new field, new outlook

Team unity and talented pitching to carry MCHS boys varsity baseball team

Ben Bulkeley

For a team that finished out of the playoff hunt a season ago, there is a certain amount of optimism following the Moffat County High School boys varsity baseball team.

The team is playing in a revamped park, with a new head coach, a new assistant coach and a new approach.

Head coach Justin Folley said part of the turnaround from last year's 3-13 season will come from his team's laid-back attitude.

"I think team unity is going to be a strength," he said. "A lot of these kids have played together for a long time, they enjoy playing with each other and do well with helping each other out when they need it."

Folley, the first-year head coach who had been an assistant coach several years before, will be assisted this year by first-year assistant coach Josh Fief. Folley regains the same team that put on an offensive clinic during the summer American Legion season.

"We have a pretty solid core," he said. "From last summer to this year, we have a lot of those guys back.

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"It's a good, solid core to build around with some good senior leadership."

A large portion of that core is centered around the team's top two starters.

"Having a solid pitching staff with Ben (Williams) and Nathan Hill," Folley said. "Having two good starters is going to be really good in this conference."

Hayden's Williams paired with Hill atop the rotation sets MCHS up nicely, Folley said.

"Having Ben back as our No. 1 starter is going to help a lot," he said. "Having a guy who has thrown in this conference, who knows what needs to be done, makes a huge difference.

"He can definitely help with some of the younger guys."

Last summer's American Legion team proved that in addition to having solid pitching and defense, the Bulldogs could rake, too.

At one point, Moffat County was riding a nine-game winning streak in which they outscored all of their opponents by at least 10 runs.

The good news for fans this season is that sluggers Williams, Scott Costello, Bubba Ivers, Kulen Turner, Hill, Greg Blackstun, Dylon Camilletti, Ivan Nielsen and cleanup hitter Halen Raymond return.

"We'll have basically the same starting nine swinging," Folley said. "Maybe with a couple additions to help out offensively, and we have a little more speed than we had last summer."

With several new names around, and a couple of spots to fill, Folley said his lineup is in no way set in stone.

"You never know," he said. "Someone might step up and do something that deserves some credit and playing time."

One thing that is different is where the Bulldogs will play.

A field renovation at Craig Middle School has transformed the Bulldogs' diamond into a place players would be proud to call home, Folley said.

"That's going to make a lot of difference," he said. "Not only for our team, but for the teams coming here to play.

"We have a little over 50 percent of our games at home this year, so I'm hoping we can get a good name for our field like Rifle has with theirs."

Even more important is having the Bulldogs make a name for themselves.

"I just want to make a good showing in this conference," Folley said. "If we can get a solid seeding in our conference, make it to district regionals, that's a win."

To get to regionals, the team will have to get by several tough opponents in the Western Slope League.

"Delta is going to be tough, as well as Palisade," he said. "Eagle Valley has (Jack Barbella) who can really throw, and he can swing it. He's going to give us some headaches.

"Between the four of us, we'll make the conference a little interesting this year. It's a tough conference — everyone can beat anybody."

Team at a glance

Last season’s record: 3-13 (3-11 in the Western Slope League)

Returning seniors:

C — Scott Costello

2B — Greg Blackstun

3B — Halen Raymond

P — Nathan Hill

New faces:

• Freshmen Bubba Ivers and Hayden’s Mark Doolin performed well for the team during summer games and will be expected to carry increased roles as the season wears on.

Players to watch:

• Halen Raymond, 3B: The senior slugger is healthy again and looking to build on a positive summer season. Expect the cleanup hitter to be one of the Bulldogs’ top hitters.

• Ben Williams, SP/CF: Last summer, Williams established himself as the de facto ace of the Bulldogs pitching staff. A year older, Williams will be expected to be the shut-down starter he showed he could be in the summer.

Dates to circle

April 10: Regional powerhouse Delta High School comes to Craig for a doubleheader with the Bulldogs. The two teams, along with Palisade and Eagle Valley, are expected to compete for league supremacy. Delta won the Western Slope League in 2009.

April 13: Moffat County vs. Steamboat Springs. Last year, the Sailors swept the season series. In the summer league, MCHS got a little payback with a home sweep.

April 17: Palisade visits Moffat County in the only regular season matchup between the two teams. Palisade defeated MCHS in the regular season last year, but it was a different case in summer league.

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