‘The goal is to get to Waco’ | CraigDailyPress.com

‘The goal is to get to Waco’

Youth all-star baseball team heads to state tourney looking to make it to regionals

Jerry Raehal

Moffat County Dawgs roster

Brentten Ivers SS, P and C

Ivan Nielsen 3B, P and SS

Josh Pritchard 3B, P and 2B

Sheldon Greenwood out with an injury

Matthew Balderston C, 3B and 2B

Jake Bingham OF

Tony Alonso OF

Aaron Cramer 1B and P

Trent Parrott OF

Wyatt Oberwitte OF, 3B and P

Taft Cleverly OF

Derek Maiolo OF

Carlos Maldonado C, SS and P

Players were selected to the all-star team by coaches of Craig Little League.

Moffat County Dawgs coaches are Steve Ivers and Larry Maiolo.

— The defense is strong, and so is the pitching.

That is Moffat County Dawgs coach Steve Ivers’ assessment of his 11- and 12-year-old all-star baseball team heading into Saturday’s Little League Colorado State Playoffs tournament in Colorado Springs. The Dawgs’ first game is at 10 a.m. against the District 5 champions, Tri-Lakes.

Ivers’ other assessment: If Dawgs hit like they did in last week’s District 3 tournament championship game in Steamboat Springs, his team could move beyond the first two rounds in the double-elimination tournament. His team could go beyond Colorado.

The Dawgs, 3-0, could be crowned state champions. And if that happens, they would head to Waco, Texas, to play in the Little League Southwest Regional Tournament.

“We have pitchers that rival anybody else’s,” he said. “It comes down to if we can put the bat on the ball.”

In the first two games of the District 3 tournament, the Dawgs struggled to hit “due to nerves,” Ivers said.

However, in the championship game against Steamboat Springs, the team exploded, scoring 10 runs on 20 hits.

That hitting swagger continued through this week’s practices, Ivers said. He also believes facing tougher competition makes his hitters better.

“The faster you throw the ball to our hitters, the better they get,” Ivers said, adding there should be more fastball pitchers at the state tournament.

Playing in smaller ballparks also could help the team. The fields at the Academy Field in Colorado Springs are 210 feet, which is 20 feet shorter than what the Dawgs normally play on.

On the longer fields, Ivers said there are three players who can consistently hit homeruns. On shorter fields, he estimates that number shoots up to seven sluggers.

Hitting, Ivers said, comes from the team’s defense.

“If we start making plays in the field, then our confidence with the bats comes around,” he said.

Expected to lead the team’s hit parade are infielders Carlos Maldonado, Ivan Nielsen and Brentten Ivers.

“Those three kids, every time they go up to bat, they will put the ball in play,” the coach said. “After that, it’s fun to watch. : The hitting part is contagious.”

Infielder Aaron Cramer agreed, “We definitely need to get the bat on the ball and just have the fundamentals.”

The Dawgs also are strong on the mound, the coach said.

Steve Ivers called Nielson and Brentten Ivers the team’s “top two pitchers,” citing their velocity and control.

But the coach also said the team’s pitching is deep with four other pitchers: Maldonado, Wyatt Oberwitte, Josh Pritchard and Aaron Cramer.

“At no time am I afraid to put any of them in,” Steve Ivers said.

For Brentten Ivers, pitching will be the defining characteristic of the tournament.

“Walks equal runs,” he said.

Although the goal is to win the tournament, Ivers said the road is tough. Other district champions are drawing their all-star teams from bigger cities, such as Grand Junction, Denver and Colorado Springs.

“It speaks for itself on the size of the cities,” he said.

The coach also said it’s important for the youths to remember that baseball is a game, and that’s why his Wednesday practice was light.

If the Dawgs win the first game, they will play the winner of the District 1 and District 2 first round match-up at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. If they win that game, they play the winner of the consolation bracket at 5 p.m. Tuesday. If they lose that game, they would play that team a second time for the championship, as it is a double-elimination tournament.

“The goal is to get to Waco,” Ivers said.

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