Late rallies define final home games as Bulldogs baseball prepares for postseason
More than once in the past week, Moffat County baseball players have found themselves in a pickle at the bottom of the seventh inning. However, when those tight situations have come up, the Bulldogs have responded.
MCHS played its final home game Monday afternoon with a comeback 16-15 victory against Middle Park that wrapped up with a walkoff home run to boost spirits heading into the last stretch of the regular season.
The non-league win against the Panthers was preceded by Saturday’s conference doubleheader against Roaring Fork.
The Dogs had a week off after an April 29 drubbing by North Fork, during which they fell 11-1 and 10-0 on the road against the Miners, who have nearly clinched the Western Slope League title.
After being swept, MoCo was eager to be on the other side of it and started off with a 7-4 defeat of the Rams.
On the mound, senior Derrick Squires pitched nearly a full game, striking out two batters, as strong fielding took care of the rest. Bulldog batters only notched three hits but had no problem getting on base with the Rams giving up frequent walks.
In comparison, hitters came alive in the second inning for both teams, with Roaring Fork earning a home run in the second inning to lead 6-1. However, junior Easton Briggs promptly did the same, sending a shot over the left-field fence to rack up three RBIs himself.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Briggs said. ”In practice, I’ve hit a couple, but in this game, I just felt good with that.“
The Dogs led 10-8 by the start of the fourth inning only for Roaring Fork to regain momentum in the fifth and sixth to lead 14-12.
Briggs replaced senior Carson Miller late in the game, finding his groove at the top of the seventh with two strikeouts to get the Dogs back on offense.
The Rams quickly collected two outs. The end of the game seemed imminent, but Squires got a single to keep Moffat County alive, and junior Easton Eckroth hit a double that brought Squires home.
Miller also doubled to let Eckroth score, while junior Casey Schulder drilled a hit down the baseline as Miller charged in to slide over the plate for a 15-14 win.
“Coming into the last week of the season, this was a great one for us to catch fire like that. One inning they go one way — the next they go another way,” said MCHS head coach Brian Jennings. “The first game it was just good team baseball, good pitching by Squires, and the offense had timely hitting when we needed it. This one wasn’t exactly the same, but who cares with two wins?”
MCHS played its last home game of the spring Monday as well as holding dual senior night ceremonies.
With Bulldog track and field also honoring its upperclassmen — Emma Jones, Bree Meats, Marta Pelanconi, Alex Musgrave, Sadie Dunckley, Logan Hafey, Halle Hamilton, Tanner Zimmerman — the baseball program brought out its four seniors, including Squires, Miller, Daniel Running and Ryan Peck, and their families for a moment in the spotlight.
After blanking the Panthers in the first inning, Running, Briggs and Peck all earned hits and made it home, with a double by cleanup hitter Squires.
Middle Park kept the competition steady and struck out six Bulldog batters — a total MCHS junior Cort Murphy also claimed.
MoCo earned five hits in the sixth inning alone as the team held a 13-9 advantage, only for the Panthers to stymie the Bulldog infield in the seventh as singles and defensive errors brought the score to 15-13.
Another three-run deficit was upon them, and the top of the lineup wasted no time getting on base as Running singled and Briggs earned a walk. Then, with Peck at the plate, it only took one pitch as he sent the ball flying into the darkness for his third homer of the season, his first at home.
He noted his mind was racing with how to approach a pitch that he initially expected to be a fastball.
“I couldn’t tell, just because of the lighting, until it was pretty much on me,” he said. “It looked hung, so I decided to throw my hands at it. It was a good curveball. It dotted up late on me, and I couldn’t see any spin on it until it was very late. I caught the barrel on it, and it just flew. Since it’s my last game I’ll probably ever play here, being able to go yard means a lot. I did it on my senior night and couldn’t be happier with that.”
More to come?
The Bulldogs will round out the league schedule Saturday in Basalt. At 7-5 in league, a sweep of the Longhorns would raise Moffat County into fourth place in the conference.
MCHS’s overall record of 9-7 has the Bulldogs ranked comfortably in the Ratings Percentage Index’s low 20s of the top 32 3A teams that will move on to the state championships. With the postseason probable, the Dogs are prepared to bring more of their best play in the coming weeks.
Lasting well past sundown, Monday’s game was a good test of endurance, among other things, Peck said.
“That’s getting us ready for playoff baseball. It’s hard to play for a long time like this, especially after the doubleheader we had. If we’re down, we stay as a team and we keep coming back stronger,” he said. “The bond I’ve made with all of them, my coaches, the seniors, all the underclassmen, there’s no other sport like baseball that builds a bond like that does.”
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