Middle Park baseball racks up hits but comes up short to Moffat County
Middle Park High School baseball players have faced some blowout wins and losses alike this season, yet the group showed their stuff this week in one of their closest games yet.
Monday evening saw the Panthers take a narrow loss in Craig as Moffat County ended it with a walk-off home run that completed a 16-15 seventh-inning comeback win.
In one of their strongest batting performances since their 21-1 rout of Jefferson, Middle Park was on the ball from the start but truly started gaining steam in the top of the third inning as junior Kyle Vogelbacher was the first of five consecutive Panthers to cross the plate with a double. Caden Hanson singled right after, while Moffat County errors helped Jack Nance and Gunnar Bjerken get on base and Andy Troccoli was walked.
Middle Park held a 7-5 lead going into the fourth inning and were up 9-7 leading into the fifth, before an onslaught of big blasts by the Bulldogs in the bottom of the sixth put the Panthers behind 13-9.
With one last opportunity to prove their mettle, the seventh inning was when Middle Park came alive playing small ball. The horsehide rarely left the infield, but the Panthers managed to force multiple Moffat County mistakes going through their full rotation and keeping the bases loaded constantly.
“Put the ball in play and let good things happen, that’s our philosophy,” said Middle Park head coach Patrick Gallegos.
By the time they retook the field, Panthers had picked up another six runs to lead 15-13. However, with the Bulldogs at the top of their lineup, Moffat County senior Ryan Peck caught a a curveball just right for a three-run homer that wrapped it up.
“It’s a tough way to end it, but two great baseball teams played a great game today. Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose, and we just came up a little bit short. We felt like we really came out and competed hard today,” Gallegos said. “We knew we’d have a tough road coming on with a good ball club on senior day. These kids scrapped it out and just couldn’t quite get there.”
By the time the game finished, it was well after dark with high winds, though Gallegos said their effect was minimal.
“This is our home field conditions, too. Yeah, it’s hard, but both teams gotta play. We just made a mistake to the wrong kid,” he said.
Altogether, the Panthers finished with 16 hits, with Forest Schofield leading in runs batted in with three, and two RBIs each for Nance and Troccoli. On the mound, Nance, Hanson and Grayson Barker combined for six strikeouts.
“Defensively, we played good Middle Park baseball. Gave up a lotta runs, but we were solid. We made most of the plays we needed to make, done the things we needed to do,” Gallegos said. “Our big thing was we just left a few outs on the table. In the middle innings, if we’d made two or three outs that got away from us, we’re well ahead in that game. But that’s just baseball.”
The neck-and-neck game was a relief for Middle Park after May 6’s doubleheader in Rifle, which the Bears won handily, 20-0 and 15-1. Earlier in the week, the Panthers had a closer competition against another 4A team, falling 7-6 to Steamboat Springs.
With a largely even record, games with larger schools have helped Middle Park’s Ratings Percentage Index status, at 28th among 3A schools.
They’ll return to their home field this Saturday against Englewood, followed by a May 16 series against Highland and the league finale against Platte Canyon the next day.
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