WEST GLENWOOD SPRINGS (5/6/19) – Pitching and defense, along with some robust and timely hitting had poised Glenwood Springs to challenge Palisade for the Western Slope League baseball championship. But the Bulldogs used those very devices in a doubleheader sweep over the Demons, 11-1 and 4-0 Saturday, to clinch their third straight WSL crown, finishing 12-0 in league play.
Glenwood was hoping Dylan Lee would be able to replicate his masterful pitching performance from a 2-hit, five-inning shutout at Eagle Valley on April 24, but it was evident early that the senior, headed to play baseball at Cal Lutheran next year, didn’t have the same command.
He walked the first two Bulldogs to face him but escaped trouble when centerfielder Cole Houston caught a vicious liner from Stevenson Reynolds and turned it into a doubleplay. Lee danced out of danger in the second when Ash Stolley dropped Brandon Pribble’s fly ball, only to turn it into a forceout at second. Then the slow-moving Pribble slipped and fell rounding third on a double by Ryder Mancuso.
Meanwhile, Tyler Dollahan staked Lee to a 1-0 lead by crushing Reynolds’ first-inning fastball over the fence in right, tying the Bulldog hurler for the league home run lead with five.
Lee’s good fortune came undone quickly in the third, as he walked the first three hitters, Houston dropped a fly ball, and Palisade parlayed another walk and Luke Sorensen’s single – the inning’s only hit — into a six-run sinking of the Demons’ hopes at overhauling the Bulldogs for first place.
Stevenson walked three Demons in the next two innings, but a marvelous, over-the-shoulder catch by centerfielder Jack Moeller of another Dollahan blast ended a two-on threat in the third. Garrett Dollahan ran into an easy third out at third base on Wheatley Nieslanik’s single to center in the next frame, Glenwood’s only hit since the first inning.
Sam Fitzwilliams relieved Lee in the fourth, allowing an inherited runner to score on a ground out, then yielded back-to-back walks to start the fifth, giving way to Leo Anchondo. Fitzwilliams had been unscored upon this season, but an error loaded the bases and Anchondo walked in a run, then wild-pitched the other home for a 9-1 Palisade lead.
Stevenson did allow back-to-back singles in the sixth but thirdbaseman Nate Bollinger turned Kai Kanzer’s hot smash into a doubleplay to turn the Demons away again.
In the top of the seventh Stevenson broke the home run tie with Dollahan, belting a 2-2 Anchondo curveball over the left-field fence for the final two runs.
Having lost one league game to Rifle, April 20, Glenwood (11-9, 6-3) would have needed to sweep the Bulldogs (16-7, 12-0) to claim the Western Slope title, so at stake in the last half of the doubleheader was a chance to overtake Eagle Valley (12-5, 7-4) in the 4A state playoff RPI standings.
Chano Gonzalez, who had struggled mightily with his control his last three outings, walking 14 in just seven innings, regained that command for most of the second game, but the Demons couldn’t solve the mixture of slow breaking stuff and well-placed fastballs by the left-handed Moeller who tossed a four-hit, seven-inning shutout.
Gonzalez was saved from early disaster when Lee turned a sizzling liner down the first-base line into a first inning-ending doubleplay. However, he hit the leadoff man in the second and when Fitzwilliams tried to throw out Pribble going for a double, the throw went into right field, allowing Sorensen to score and Pribble to go to third. Mancuso’s sacrifice fly provided an unneeded second run.
Glenwood tried to answer in the last of the third, but Moeller struck out Fitzwilliams leaving the bases loaded. Two walks in the fourth came to naught on a running grab by leftfielder Elijah Swank and another inning-ending strikeout.
Gonzalez settled down with three scoreless frames, but Glenwood wasted doubles by Dollahan and Kanzer in the fifth and sixth. The best scoring threat came in the sixth when Nieslanik got the Demons’ only hit in scoring position in eleven opportunities for the day, sending Kanzer to third, and Cole Houston walked to load the bases with one out.
Pinch hitter Liam McMahon hit a sharp two-hopper back to Moeller who threw home for the force and Sorensen’s relay to first completed the rally-killing doubleplay.
A perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt by Moeller in the top of the seventh completed the Bulldog scoring and the lefthander finished off the Demons in the home half, making 104 pitches in winning his third game against two losses. Gonzalez’ record fell to 2-4.
Glenwood has a doubleheader at Steamboat Springs (5-6, 2-5) Saturday before concluding the regular season with Eagle Valley on Monday, May 13. Providing the Demons take care of business with the Sailors, the Devil-Demon conclusion will determine second place in the WSL and likely a more favorable playoff seeding.