KMTS BASEBALL: Titans Use Small-ball, Defense to Earn First Win

PEACH VALLEY (4/10/18) – It’s called “small-ball” when a team wins a baseball game without benefit of big hits – specifically, home runs – or the “long ball.” Coal Ridge used three doubleplays, some stellar pitching from sophomores Ryan Kotz and Jared Lund, and a big dose of “small-ball” to defeat Moffat County, 4-3 on Tuesday, for the Titans’ first win in seven games. Just as importantly, the win squares the home team’s Western Slope 3A League record at 1-1, moving Coal Ridge in contention, despite the 0-6 start to their season.

The Titans, who had scored just nine runs in their winless stretch, jumped on Moffat County lefthander Adain Wilmot for two in the first. Base hits by Lund and Kotz keyed the opening rally with an error and Sean Mooney’s groundout providing the two runs. Kotz, who used a doubleplay to erase a lead-off single in the first, sailed through the second on 11 pitches, including a pair of strikeouts. Senior Jake Whitaker single-handedly upped the Titan lead to 3-0 in the home half when he led off with an infield single, stole second, and went to third on a wild pitch. When sophomore brother Jared struck out on a pitch that bounced past the Bulldog catcher, Jake raced home on the throw to first.

Kotz got into trouble in the third when the number 8 and 9 hitters put together singles, and one scored on a wild pitch, closing the gap to 3-1, with Moffat County threatening after a one-out walk put runners on first and second. Josh Turner drilled a one-hopper up the middle, which shortstop Lund fielded, stepped on second and fired to first for the DP, ending the inning.

The Titans got that run back when Kotz stretched a single into a hustle double, went to third on a balk and trotted home on an errant pick-off attempt. Yet an error and walk opening the fourth put Kotz in hot water again. He nearly escaped with Lund making a fine catch of a wind-blown popup on the grass in short left, and a tumbling attempt by the sophomore shortstop on another twisting pop fly was ruled an infield-fly out. But Hunter Smilanich singled home Wilmot, slicing the lead to two again, 4-2. Catcher Jared Whitaker ended the inning with a dashing basket catch of a foul popup behind the place.

Coal Ridge put a runner in scoring position in every inning from the fourth-to-the-sixth but Wilmot and then reliever Drake Doherty wriggled out of trouble, the Titans leaving the bases loaded in the last of the sixth.

In the top of that frame, Kotz struck out the leadoff hitter, but a double by Colby Becket and walk to Greg Hixson brought coach Dan Larsen to the mound as Lund and Kotz exchanged positions. With Wyatt Johnson batting, one of Lund’s pitches rolled away from Jared Whitaker, encouraging Becket to advance, but the Titan catcher’s throw easily arrived at third in time for brother Jake to lay on the tag. Then Lund broke off a curveball to fan Johnson for the third out.

After the Titans left the bases loaded without scoring in the bottom of the sixth, Lund allowed a leadoff single to Smilanich in the 7th. A passed ball moved the Bulldog to second, but Lund struck out Doherty before Dominic Paschetti doubled to right. Branson Simpson’s relay throw was bobbled, allowing Smilanich to score. With one out and the tying run at second, Krece Papierski lined a one-one pitch to center. Oscar Salazar came in and made the catch, easily doubling Papierski off second to end the game.

Kotz (1-3) was the winner, allowing just five hits and one earned run in his 5.1 innings on 80 pitches, with Lund picking up the save, striking out two in relief. Kotz and Carson Miller had two hits apiece for Coal Ridge.

The Titans (1-6, 1-1 WSL) have a chance to move up in the standings when they host Gunnison (3-7, 2-1) this Saturday, following a non-league game at Meeker on Thursday.