Moffat County baseball ready to come out swinging |

Moffat County baseball ready to come out swinging

Moffat County first baseman Casey Schulder stays ready as teammate Cort Murphy gets a fastball in motion during a 2022 Bulldog baseball game. So far, Moffat County players have been unable to use their field, exclusively practicing in the MCHS gym. The space affords them room for batting cages and other ways to work on mechanics, though there are limitations.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

With springtime merely an abstract idea at this point, the Moffat County baseball program will likely have to wait a bit before its playing field is back to how the Bulldogs want it.

Either way, the team is prepared to take on the competition, and MCHS’s season is underway with a two-day stretch this weekend, as MoCo faces off on the road with Front Range teams Highland and Wellington.

Though the athletes are just coming back from spring break, this won’t be their first game. The Dogs got their feet wet, literally, with a season opener against Rifle in Fruita. The March 10 matchup was part of a tournament hosted by the Bears and replete with moisture.

“Conditions were pretty poor. The mound turned into Play-Doh at one point, but they dealt with it,” coach James Romansky said. “We have a group of mentally strong kids.”

Rifle won 17-2 with a powerhouse pitcher striking out 11 MoCo batters.

“The first guy we see throws about 85 (mph), so it was a learning curve for a lot of our guys,” Romansky said.

So far, Moffat County players have been unable to use their own diamond, exclusively practicing in the MCHS gym. The space affords them room for batting cages and other ways to work on mechanics, though there are limitations.

“Being able to throw more than about 180 feet is preferred,” Romansky said. “Being able to hit outside and have that space is preferred, but right now we’re condensed.”

Romansky is in his sixth year coaching and took over as head coach midway through last spring, though he’s worked to keep players mindful of the game throughout the year.

“Having a consistent culture for an entire year will benefit our guys. I do bring a lot of intensity and dedication and responsibility to put on them because that’s just how I view the game,” he said. “Win, lose or tie, we’re going to be able to compete. If they see me give that amount of effort all year, then they’ll give that to me in return. Hopefully, I’ve earned that trust and that’s what I’ve seen from them so far.”

Last season saw the Bulldogs finish fifth in the 3A Western Slope League with an 11-11 record. They qualified for the state playoffs but were eliminated in the first round by Colorado Academy.

This year’s roster includes five seniors, all of whom have seen varsity experience, in Easton Briggs, Easton Eckroth, Cort Murphy, Marcos Romero and Casey Schulder.

While players who have since graduated boasted the best statistics in 2022, this year’s upperclassmen were no slouch in numbers in their junior season.

Eckroth maintained a .318 batting average with .281 for Briggs and .280 for Schulder. Briggs also leads returning players in RBIs with 17 and had a 3.50 earned run average as a pitcher.

Though he expects to play shortstop more often, Briggs said he will likely be a closing pitcher this spring. However, being in the gym hasn’t helped his throwing mechanics much.

“With the mound we practice on, it’s a lot harder pushing off of it,” he said. “You can’t really get it the way you want it.”

Murphy also was more of a regular on the mound last year, claiming two wins, 11 strikeouts and a 3.57 ERA.

“I’m hoping to be a big part of the team on the mound but also be able to track down fly balls in the outfield and get any outs we can as a team,” Murphy said.

The attitude of not being set in one of the nine positions on the diamond is exactly what Romansky hopes to see.

“It’s a chess match, which is why I encourage so many guys to be utility players. The more tools you have, the more opportunities you’re gonna have on the field,” Romansky said. “If I can use a chess piece in a certain way at the beginning of a game and then turn things around in a different way, I don’t lose a slot, I don’t lose a bat in the lineup and I’m able to keep it an adjustable program.”

That sense of strategy will be important all season long but especially at this point. While the Bulldogs are set to host home games are early as next week, Romansky would rather remain on the road than have to reschedule.

“You can get injured so easily in this game, throw too many pitches in too short a time, and it’s just the way the game is played,” Romansky said. “We want to avoid that at all costs, and our AD Jim Wright has been head and shoulders above what I expected to make our schedule worthwhile in what’s probably the worst weather year that I’ve been here.”

Romansky and his players are already well aware certain areas of the state will have an advantage with field conditions, and the only thing to keep in mind is that being stuck indoors for practice doesn’t have to be a liability.

“I preach mental toughness right now and remind them that taking a ground ball on hardwood is not the same thing as taking on the grass,” Romansky said. “If we can realize that in the first or second inning and make adjustments, we’re going to be in the game. Hopefully, our mental game stays strong and we can be an adjustable team.”

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