PEACH VALLEY (4/26/18) – Both teams combined for 366 pitches, 24 walks, and the WINNING team used nine pitchers, who threw 108 balls to just 80 strikes and hit SIX batters, overcoming those gifts to the opposition by scoring in EVERY inning. Oh, and the LOSING team scored eight runs in the first two innings without a single hit, and came from behind to tie or take the lead in the first four innings.
More? Well, on NFL Draft Day, Meeker won its non-league game at Coal Ridge by a football-like 23-18 score because their first two hitters, Trapper Merrifield and Doak Mantle, combined for TEN hits in eleven at bats, scoring eleven runs. Yet for five innings that production at the top of the lineup wasn’t enough because eight Cowboy pitchers couldn’t throw strikes and kept giving back the lead.
As the Titans mounted yet another comeback, opening the home half of the fifth with back-to-back doubles to pull within one, 15-14, Meeker coach Brian Merrifield finally had to go to his ace, 6-1, 200-pound senior lefty Logan Hughes, who had a 3-0 record and 1.83 ERA coming into the game with 20 strikeouts and one walk in 15 innings. He promptly restored order, striking out the side to keep the Cowboys ahead for the first time in the game.
However, with Meeker (9-5, 3-1) in a 3-team battle for first place in the 2A 3/5 District League with Hotchkiss and Paonia, the Cowboys didn’t want to use up their top starter. So after adding six runs in the top of the sixth for a 21-14 lead (pigskin season, anyone?), they turned to their ninth pitcher of the game, freshman Braydon Garcia.
As they had done in the first five innings, Coal Ridge rallied, with Carson Miller and Jared Whitaker scoring on a single by Ryan Kotz. Garcia walked Jake Whitaker, got one out, then walked Branson Simpson to bring Meeker’s coach to the mound again. He again went to Hughes, who began the game as that rare baseball oddity, a left-handed shortstop.
This time, Hughes had trouble finding his command, yielding a run on a fielder’s choice, then walking two hitters to force in another. With the score now 21-18, the Titans just needed a field goal, but Hughes fanned Miller, leaving the bases loaded.
Meeker tacked on two more in the seventh as Merrifield stroked his fifth hit of the game, and Coal Ridge committed its ELEVENTH error when Mantle, after five hits in his previous at bats, hit a liner to right that was dropped. Hughes set the Titans down 1-2-3 for their eighth non-league loss.
Despite a Western Slope League doubleheader coming up Saturday with Basalt (6-5, 3-4 WSL), Coal Ridge (5-9, 4-2) went with top starter Kotz, but largely due to a 4-for-4 effort from Merrifield and Mantle, the Titan sophomore was KO’d by the second inning, after which Meeker led 8-2.
Mantle, who yielded three walks and two runs in the first, didn’t get out of the second either, putting two runners aboard with a walk and hit batter. His successor wild-pitched both runners home while walking two more and yielding the ball to a third hurler, who filled the bases with another walk, hit Miller for a run and walked home another, bringing the Titans within two, 8-6, despite not having a hit.
With the bases loaded, in came the fourth Cowboy pitcher of the inning, Merrifield, who got a force-out at the plate before walking in one and hitting a batter to force across the tying run. That brought up the freshman Simpson, who had one hit all season coming into the contest. He lined a ball to left, giving Coal Ridge a 10-8 lead before Jared Lund grounded out, stranding three runners.
Lane Stecklein was victimized by a pair of errors and two hits by the M & M boys at the top of the Cowboy lineup, tying the game at 10. A single by Miller and an error by Meeker gave the Titans a one-run lead, but with two out in the top of the fourth, two more errors brought up number-nine hitter Jacob Pelloni, who doubled to knot the score again.
Coal Ridge took the lead once more in the home half of the fourth as Simpson led off with a single, scoring on Lund’s hit to right and Garrett Frantz, Meeker’s fifth pitcher, hit Kotz with the bases full for a 13-11 Titan advantage.
That would be the last lead for Coal Ridge as Merrifield opened the sixth with a double off Jared Whitaker, followed by a high blast that cleared the left field fence by Mantle, tying the score. With two outs, Luis Villalpando, who homered off Kotz in the second, plated two more runs on a single to right.
When Oscar Salazar and Simpson doubled to lead off the Titan sixth, that brought in Hughes again to halt the rally. Jared Whitaker (0-1) took the loss, with Cole Rogers (1-0), who got one out to end the fourth, getting the victory for Meeker. Kotz drove in 4 Titan runs, Simpson was 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs, and Miller scored three to lead the Coal Ridge offense.