Moffat County baseball stays atop league rankings with solid wins
For Craig Press
The past week has been a busy one for Moffat County High School baseball, and while they’ve been on the road, they’ve still been coming home repeatedly.
Home plate, that is.
A Bulldog schedule that started promisingly is still going strong with early energy as the varsity team stands at 5-0 after multiple road games.
Rout in Rifle
The Dogs may have been facing a 4A team during a May 11 game in Rifle, but they were by no means outsized, especially in the number of times they scored.
MoCo won 21-2 in a five-inning mercy-rule game in which everything went right for them.
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Every Bulldog batter got on base repeatedly, with most recording hits, with senior Krece Papierski earning a special feat by hitting for the cycle with a single, double, triple and a home run on the day, batting in six runs.
Hunter Smilanich also batted 1.000 with five hits and four RBIs, with the two of them combining for six of the Dogs’ 11 total stolen bases, of which fellow senior Derrick Squires had three himself.
Smilanich also was on the mound for the full game, striking out seven batters.
Head coach Brian Jennings said the team caught a small break with the Bears missing some key players — thanks to Rifle football’s playoff run, which culminated in a successful 35-34 state title this past weekend — but his players were going full steam either way.
“They were hitting really well, everybody was. We’re being very patient at the plate this year,” he said, adding that despite Rifle having a strong starting pitcher, the Bulldogs were able to punish his relievers with eight runs in the third inning and 10 in the fifth.
Mixing it up in Meeker
A Thursday set of games in Meeker proved a different energy for the Bulldogs, partly due to a foundation format. The games will be considered exhibition only and will not count toward the season record.
MCHS used the opportunity to give their starters some rest and test the tenacity of the Bulldog bench. A fourth-inning rally gave the boys in blue six runs against their hosts, but a few too many fielding errors late in the game resulted in an 11-9 W for the Cowboys.
“That’s baseball for you, we’ve just gotta keep on chipping when we’re ahead,” Jennings said. “We’ve still gotta execute and win. Our older guys won’t be here forever, so we need the younger guys to step up so we can make evaluations”
Jennings began the game with senior Josh McCourt pitching, followed by junior Daniel Running and sophomore Easton Eckroth.
On the plus side, the team’s first junior varsity game of the season rounded out the night, with the younger Bulldogs going to eight innings for the 3-2 win.
Hayden senior Fisher Preston missed Moffat County’s home opener versus Coal Ridge due to a family trip, but he got plenty of batting practice in Rifle and Meeker, as well as trying out a new spot on the field.
“I mostly play first base, but I happened to be at third for a few minutes. That was pretty fun,” he said.
With no Hayden baseball program to join, Preston said he had originally tried suiting up for Steamboat Springs as a freshman and sophomore but didn’t have the best experience.
So far, he’s been more than happy to be on the Moffat County roster.
“It’s a great team environment here. I’m super-excited to be playing with these guys,” he said.
Another weekend sweep
After non-conference matchups, MCHS players showed they were prepared for 3A Western Slope League competition, easily defeating Aspen 10-2 and 10-0 in a Saturday doubleheader to stay undefeated in the WSL rankings.
Besides Papierski’s third homer of the season in the second game — which helped end the shutout after six innings — the team earned 10 hits in each game.
Pitchers Derrick Squires and Ryan Peck each threw a full game, with nine and eight strikeouts, respectively.
“We only had to use two arms, which is always a bonus in a tight season,” Jennings said. “It was a total team effort that makes us feel good going into next week.”
Moffat County and Gunnison are the only teams in the WSL who have yet to drop an official game, and the two will face off for conference dominance this Friday in Delta.
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