Power hitting picks up for Moffat County baseball
The wind was blowing the right way Tuesday for the Moffat County baseball players.
MCHS swept Yampa Valley rival Steamboat Springs in a midweek doubleheader that ended with wins of 15-10 and 10-0 for the Bulldogs.
Despite the series meaning little for teams’ league standings, it was an important matchup, especially for older athletes from both Craig and Steamboat, who have spent half their lives competing against or alongside each other.
“This is the rivalry and we always want to beat Steamboat,” Moffat County coach Brian Jennings said.
Most of the Bulldogs got on base early in the game, but a third-inning slugfest included the highlight of senior Derrick Squires knocking his first home run of the season over the left-center field fence.
“There was a lot of wind carrying that,” Squires said. “You’ve just got to put a barrel on the ball and things will happen. Mother Nature kind of took care of the rest of that.”
Bulldogs were looking to repeat last season’s sweep, but it didn’t happen without a struggle.
After trailing 13-3, the Sailors controlled the pace of the fourth inning, scoring seven runs.
“The exact same thing happened last year where we were up and then they came back and made it real close, but then in the second game we did what we needed to do. I was having a little bit of déjà vu,” Jennings said.
The Bulldogs still took the win in the first round with senior starter Carson Miller and junior closer Easton Briggs combining for six strikeouts.
“We’ve been talking a lot this week about keeping the energy up in the duration of these doubleheaders. Even when we get punched in the mouth, the second that we lose that team energy and that bond that we have, it’s kind of like falling down the stairs,” Jennings said. “Nobody wants to be the guy who makes a mistake, and we’ve been talking to them about predator versus prey. Predators have their eyes in the front of their head and they can’t worry about what’s behind them. They worry about the ball in front of them.”
If the Sailors were hoping for a split, they found themselves sunk quickly as the fourth inning again became the moment of truth but this time for the Bulldogs.
Squires hit another homer, this time pulling it to the right, and it was a grand slam as teammates Cort Murphy, Max Noland and Daniel Running greeted him at home plate after scoring themselves moments earlier.
Squires took pride in being able to swing the team sledgehammer — a tradition for any home run hitter — twice in one day.
“That helps boost me and the rest of the team’s morale. It’s always fun when you see someone who’s predominantly a pitcher go hard like that. It should keep the spirits up,” he said.
Jennings and fellow coaches were also pleased with Squires’ feat.
“We’ve seen him at batting practice and we knew he could do it. He’s one of those guys who’s trying to figure it out and working hard at BP, and now we see what he can do. That’s what we expect from him as one of our seniors,” Jennings said.
Murphy took the mound for the second game, striking out three Sailors, while a dominant defense took care of the rest to end it in five innings.
The wins at home were a pleasant turnaround from the weekend in Delta, in which the Dogs dropped two games 17-2 and 21-2.
The MoCo bench had something to celebrate against the Panthers as senior Ryan Peck knocked one out of the park — one of two homers he had on the day — but things started going awry as Delta went on a rampage.
“They put the ball in play and a lot of them fell where we weren’t standing. They’re a very, very good team,” Jennings said.
MCHS is 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the 3A Western Slope League heading into Friday’s road games against the North Fork Miners in Hotchkiss (13-3, 7-1), and victories for the Dogs could shuffle the league standings.
Of North Fork’s three defeats, two came against squads the Bulldogs have beaten — Steamboat and Coal Ridge.
Jennings said it’s tough to predict what teams will be like in the second half of the season, given the tendency for Western Slope teams — his own included — to start slow and then hit their stride.
“It’s baseball in Northwest Colorado — we’ve been inside for the last six months and now we’re gonna start picking up the pace like we know we can,” he said.
A return to playoffs is the goal, but Jennings also wants the Bulldogs to be mindful of the present.
“It’s really easy to get lost in the end of the year and everything that’s ahead of us,” he said. “We’re trying to keep them in mind about everything we’ve got to do in the next two-and-a-half weeks.”
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