WEST GLENWOOD SPRINGS (5/5/18) – Sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and men actually do work out. At least for Glenwood Springs’ baseball coach Eric Nieslanik and his staff, the Demons’ 11-1, 11-0, doubleheader sweep of Battle Mountain, saving their number one and two starting pitchers for Monday’s games with Summit County, couldn’t have gone better.
Pitching coach Pete Schaffner explained Glenwood (11-6, 8-2 WSL) wanted to hold out junior ace Chano Gonzalez and senior lefty Davis Deaton if possible. Those two had combined for seven of Glenwood’s nine wins prior to Saturday’s doubleheader. With Summit (9-6, 5-3) just a game behind in the battle for second place in the Western Slope League, a pitch limit in the three days between games, and facing winless Battle Mountain (0-17, 0-12), the coaching staff chose to go with sophomore Cole Houston, whose only start this season was a 3-hit complete game win over Cortez, and freshman Wheatley Nieslanik, making his varsity debut.
How did it work out? Houston allowed no hits into the fourth inning and won game one, 11-1, and Nieslanik shut out the Huskies on two hits for four innings to win the second game, 11-0. The risk wasn’t that great, as Battle Mountain has now lost via the ten-run mercy rule 13 of 17 games.
However Husky starter Chris Davis kept it close for a while in game one. A pair of first-inning errors and Dylan Lee’s single staked the Demons to a 2-0 lead, and that was still the score entering the fourth inning. Houston, who was on a 60-pitch limit so he’d be available for relief in Monday’s twin bill, was magnificent, striking out eight straight Huskies in one stretch and taking a perfect game two outs into the fourth.
When he walked Jack Oberley and hit Traver Goldberg, coach Nieslanik replaced Houston, after 61 pitches, with senior Tyler Boyd, even though the no-hitter was still intact. “I was mad (coming out of the game),” Houston said, “but I understood (the coaches’ reasoning).”
Boyd struck out Kevin Alvarado to end the inning and in the home half, Houston doubled home Deaton and scored on Leo Anchondo’s infield hit for a 4-0 lead. The Battle Mountain pitcher, Davis, ended the no-no with two outs in the fifth, doubling to left before Boyd retired the side on a soft liner to Lee at first.
Glenwood broke the game open in the fifth when Davis’s command deserted him, walking Boyd and Gonzalez, then hitting Jake Brown to fill the bases for Sam Fitzwilliams, who had driven in nine runs in the Demons’ two previous games. The sophomore, who would register another seven RBI’s vs. the Huskies, began the onslaught with a two-run single. The lead expanded to 8-0 on a ground out and an error.
Battle Mountain finally crossed the plate in the 6th when a two-out, hit-and-run single rolled through the just vacated spot between first and second, scoring Spencer Goldberg. No matter, Anchondo and Boyd started a game-ending rally with singles, and Gonzalez’ double made it 10-1. With two outs, Fitzwilliams bounced a double over the fence in right center to provide the mercy-rule margin.
Houston, now 2-0, struck out nine and walked just one in his 3 and 2/3rds innings, with Boyd picking up the save, walking no one and striking out four in two innings, plus.
Game two featured the freshman righty Nieslanik, with Gonzalez and Deaton available for an inning each of back-up if needed. Husky catcher Cameron Wolfe belted a two-out drive to the fence in left, but when the relay was overthrown past third, he was cut down trying to score. After that, Nieslanik set down seven straight, including striking out the side in the third.
Boyd got things started for Glenwood in the first inning with a double, stealing third, and scoring on a wild pitch by second-game starter Oberley. In the third the Husky junior hit three batters and walked two, around a double by Nieslanik, forcing home the first three runs before Fitzwilliams’ shot off the thirdbaseman’s glove plated two more. Kai Kanzer’s sacrifice fly and a throwing error made it a 7-run inning and 8-0 Demon lead.
Nieslanik yielded another triple, to Milton Garzon, with one out in the fourth, then walked Wolfe, who stole second. Clean-up hitter Traver Goldberg popped out to short left, Houston making a nice running catch, holding the runner at third, and a sharp grounder to Gonzalez at short ended the threat.
Singles by Gonzalez and Brown, along with Battle Mountain’s eighth error of the doubleheader (Glenwood was error-free in both games) made the score 9-0 until Fitzwilliams drove a 2-2 pitch high and beyond the left-field fence. Following the home run, his team-leading second for the season, Fitzwilliams took the hill, finishing off the shutout by striking out two of three Huskies he faced in the fifth.
Nieslanik’s winning line included four innings, two hits, one walk and six strikeouts in 55 pitches. Fitzwilliams was 4-for-7, scoring three along with his 7 RBI’s in the two games. Boyd, who was honored between games along with fellow seniors Brown, Brady Steen, Davis and Chris Deaton, scored five runs in the double-dip, with Gonzalez scoring four and driving in three, and “Deuces Wild” Anchondo scoring two, while going two-for-two.
The doubleheader with Summit, which handed first-place Palisade (14-5, 11-1) its only league loss, 12-7 (April 27), will be played, Monday, May 7 at 2 pm and 4, making up a rain-out exactly one month before. The Tigers then have another make-up doubleheader with Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, but if Glenwood’s plans continue to flourish, the Demons can already have clinched second place, setting up a more favorable playoff seed.