Playoff potential: Moffat County baseball sees 6 wins in one week, capped off by Saturday sweep of Aspen
A passerby at the Craig Middle School baseball field Saturday afternoon might have thought the scoreboard reading 8-8 indicated a close game for the Moffat County High School team.
But, besides the minor glitch in the board’s home side that didn’t indicate double digits, the tally didn’t come close to telling the Bulldogs’ recent streak of success.
MCHS ended the weekend with a home sweep of Aspen in a doubleheader the Dogs won 6-5 and 18-8, marking six total victories in the week.
The ball got rolling Wednesday, as the Bulldogs traveled to Grand Junction for a neutral-field series against Gunnison, which began with a 3-1 W for the Dogs.
Drake Doherty found his rhythm on the mound with 15 strikeouts against the Cowboys.
“He threw his butt off in that game. It was unreal,” said MCHS coach Brian Jennings.
Gunnison fought back in the second game, with MoCo answering back in kind, resulting in the highest-scoring game to date for either side, with Bulldogs ending with the 20-19 win.
“Gunnison was just crazy. We went down 10 runs in the third and then just started to catch fire,” Jennings said.
With a pair of wins against their 3A Western Slope League foes, MoCo was back on the bus Friday against a non-conference opponent, heading to Granby.
Another road trip brought with it another successful doubleheader, defeating the Middle Park Panthers 9-4 and 7-1.
The team was prepared for another set on their home turf, albeit with energy waning. But, it didn’t hurt that their schedule worked to their benefit seeing the Skiers to end the week.
Even so, winless Aspen came out swinging Saturday, bringing the score to 5-5 by the top of the seventh inning, dealing the Dogs more trouble than they’d expected.
But, they call it home field advantage for a reason — MCHS’s last run of plate appearances went smoothly enough as the game concluded with a walk-off single by Connor Murphy, driving home Doherty.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that’s fought as hard as this one,” Murphy said.
Between games, the team worked in Senior Night ceremonies, saluting the three oldest members: Murphy, Caitlin Running and Greg Hixson.
“All the guys have been working their butts off for us,” Hixson said. “We’ve all been hitting a lot better and getting it done.”
And, if the first game was a narrow but decisive win, the second was a rout. Even as Skiers jumped to a 3-0 lead to start, the Dogs promptly tied it and kept the pattern going.
The Bulldogs’ powerhouse performance earlier in the day tapered off a bit, though a series of bean balls, walks and errors by Aspen helped them keep the score climb.
As the fifth inning rolled around, a 10-run mercy rule looked imminent for the Bulldogs, who led 15-8, but it wasn’t until Daniel Running and Krece Papierski crossed the plate off a long shot to left field by Hunter Smilanich that the dugout broke out the celebration for their sixth consecutive win.
While Jennings couldn’t put Doherty in as pitcher, he had Smilanich and Carson Miller throwing for the first game, with Ryan Peck and Daniel Running in the second.
“The exciting thing about that: sophomore, freshman, freshman, freshman,” he said, counting off his young talent.
And, while six is sweet, eight is great.
Now 8-8 overall and 4-3 in WSL play, Moffat County moves to fourth in the conference rankings, at home again Tuesday with Coal Ridge (9-11, 3-4), looking to capitalize on their energy to win another doubleheader.
And, possibly another and another with rescheduled series in both Basalt and Cedaredge to complete the coming week, enough victories raising them in the count among 3A teams to potentially move into the playoffs.
Murphy said the credo of the team currently boils down to some very simple components.
“See ball, hit ball, catch ball,” he laughed.
American Red Cross of Western Colorado will be training Moffat County volunteers on disaster cycle services, psychological first aid, and more during sessions Saturday, Aug. 24, according to a news release from the organization.