Moffat County baseball outlasts Olathe for Bulldogs’ 1st win |

Moffat County baseball outlasts Olathe for Bulldogs’ 1st win

Moffat County High School's Connor Murphy stays vigilant at first base.
Andy Bockelman

One inning can define an entire game of baseball, and though Moffat County High School was on both sides of that truth Saturday, the Bulldogs’ first conference matchup ultimately went their way.

MCHS opened 3A Western Slope League play at home against Olathe, taking a 16-14 win against the Pirates.

The day on the diamond couldn’t have started better for the Bulldogs, who added eight runs in the second inning with teamwork clicking on the other side of the ball.

With each team keeping the other’s scoring minimal in the third and fourth, the Pirates put two men across the plate at the top of the fifth, the Dogs responded with four more of their own, barely missing the chance to close the game early with the 10-run mercy rule, leading 14-5 once Olathe got their third out.

As the sixth inning got moving, the stop-and-start snow that kept appearing ended for the day, with the sunnier weather bringing a burst of power from the Pirates. Between walks and long blasts to the outfield, it looked like Olathe was primed for a comeback.

With Hunter Smilanich starting on the mound and relieved by Ryan Peck midway through the fourth, the Dogs struggled to get back in control.

Peck had a solid day in the batter’s box, leading MoCo in RBIs, with five total, including three alone off a bases-loaded double during the team’s second-inning hot streak.

However, pitching was rougher for him.

“You’ve gotta hit your spots, and you can’t leave stuff up like I was doing today,” he said. “I left a lot of pitches up, and they drove them. It’s just a lesson you’ve gotta learn over time.”

Peck was briefly replaced by Carson Miller, who also had his troubles, with Drake Doherty quickly brought in to close, getting the Dogs back to the dugout with a strikeout, one of two K’s he collected.

Though the Pirates were close to narrowing the gap with seven runs, Moffat County stayed in the lead at 16-12 with two more runs heading into the seventh.

Olathe collected one walk after another late in the game, which brought them another two runs, yet it was a runner interference call that got MoCo the win as a clustering at second base following a fly ball worked against the Pirates.

“That’s a tough one for them to swallow,” MCHS coach Brian Jennings said of the opponents. “They were down early, but they fought and came back. It was getting close there, but our guys came together.”

The first victory of the season came later than Jennings might have liked, though the long stretch of practice time between games was needed.

“We turned three double plays today, didn’t have any last year, plus our bats really came together,” he said. “

The Bulldogs nearly came from behind during their April 2 doubleheader against Battle Mountain. The Huskies dominated the first game 17-2 and were looking to do the same in the next round with a 7-0 first inning.

The Dogs slowly caught up from there, ultimately falling 13-10.

“We’ve fought a lot this year. We’re a team that likes to fight,” Jennings said.

He added that the surge of wet weather isn’t necessarily a bad thing in his eyes, so long as the field remains playable.

“As an ex-infielder, I love soft dirt. The ball doesn’t bounce up in your face,” he said.

Now 1-4 overall, MCHS looks to add more to the win column with a Tuesday series in Parachute against 2-5 Grand Valley.

“We’ve got some momentum going for us, so we’ll see if we can keep that going,” Peck said. “We’ve just gotta do the little things right. This should be a turning point in our season.”

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