GLENWOOD SPRINGS (4/5) – Steven Romero unveiled a new pitch in a 6-0 win over Eagle Valley, using a swift-breaking curveball to record six of his nine strikeouts, handing the Devils their first league loss and vaulting Glenwood Springs on top of the Western Slope League with a 3-0 record.
Tristen Howe’s 2-run double capped a 3-run fourth inning, breaking open a tenous 3-0 advantage as Glenwood (4-3, 3-0) left runners in scoring position in every inning, stranding 11 in the game.
But Romero kept the dangerous Devils (7-4, 4-1), who have six double-digit wins this season, at bay by mixing an 84 mph heater with the hard curve. The pitch looked like an inside fastball, and had the Eagle Valley hitters, who were averaging .393 as a team, leaning back only to get called out looking at strike three five times including all three outs in the 4th.
Glenwood took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Tyler Boyd scored on a wild pitch after infield singles by Romero and Cooper Cornelius loaded the bases. But, in a preview of missed opportunities, the Demons would again fill the sacks only to strand three.
Romero and first baseman Branden Benzel helped diffuse a possible rally in the second with some sleight of hand. After hitting a batter with one out, Romero attempted a pickoff which Benzel pretended to miss. Pinch runner Jake Cosette took a couple of steps off second when Benzel slapped the tag on him. That was fortunate as centerfielder Peyton Hagemann lost Matt Meline’s fly ball in the sun for a double, before Romero got the final out on a grounder.
Glenwood moved in front by three in the second as Tyler Boyd doubled home Chano Gonzalez and scored on Romero’s single up the middle.
Though Eagle Valley managed a baserunner in every inning, the only real scoring chance came when Romero wild-pitched Garrett Martin to third with one out. He snapped off a pair of hard-breaking balls past Kyle Williams and Matt Sanchez to strike out the side, ending the threat.
Gonzalez singled off shortstop Joe Rivera’s glove to lead off the fourth, with singles by Romero and Cooper Cornelius loading the bases and knocking out starting pitcher Jake McGinnty. Left John Walsh gave up a run when Rivera bobbled what might have been an inning-ending double play grounder, setting the stage for Howe’s rocket to right center that opened the 6-0 lead.
Despite runners at second and third with one out, Glenwood couldn’t add to its lead, and a base-running mistake foiled a similar situation in the fifth.
The Devils managed to put two runners on in the 6th against Romero and coach Eric Nieslanik, mindful of a doubleheader coming up Saturday against a Summit team that swept two from Rifle on April 1st, pulled the senior righthander after 85 pitches. Nieslanik explained after the game that league rules mandate three days off for a hurler who goes past 85 pitches, which would prevent the Demon ace from facing the 3-0 Tigers Saturday.
Davis Deaton came in to strand the runners, inducing a fly ball to Hagemann, then made a sparkling play to end the game in the top of the seventh. After walking the leadoff batter, Deaton struck out Zack Cassette, then made a diving grab of Kyle Jordan’s bunt. From his knees, Deaton fired a strike to Benzel to double off the runner for a game-ending double play.
Romero allowed just three hits in his 5 and 2/3rds innings pitched, walking two, hitting two, and striking out nine to run his league record to 2-0 (2-2 overall), lowering his season ERA to 0.57 per seven innings.
Howe’s 3-for-3 game raised his batting average 100 points to .529. Gonzalez was 2-for-2, scoring twice, boosting his average to .667, with 13 runs scored in seven games, in which he’s reached base 22 times. Boyd, 2-for-3, leads the Demons with 11 runs batted in, and is now hitting .458. Romero’s three hits boosted his average to .320, with 9 RBI’s.