Sailors overcome weather

Steamboat eager to return home after topping Battle Mountain, 16-7

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— The members of the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team didn't waste a lot of time celebrating after beating Battle Mountain 16-7 on Tuesday night in Craig.

Instead, the players packed their bags quickly and made their way into the Craig Middle School parking lot for a ride back home. There were many reasons for the quick departure first and foremost, the team had just finished a three-hour marathon in near freezing temperatures. The players were in a hurry to escape the cold game, which had included periods of snow, rain and sleet.

But head coach Joss Vinson and his players may have also felt as if they needed to get away after escaping a near upset at the hands of the winless Battle Mountain Huskies.

Despite the lopsided final score, the game was a close one until the sixth inning. That's when Steamboat, who led at the time 8-7, exploded for eight runs to seal the team's second win of the season.

Steamboat also beat Moffat County on this same field a week ago but with better weather conditions.

The Sailors, behind some solid pitching by starter Preston Stanfill, had jumped out to a huge first-inning lead. Stanfill, who gave up seven runs in seven innings, mowed down the first three Battle Mountain batters in order.

In that same inning, Steamboat's offense also got off on the right foot, with leadoff batter Joe Liefer tagging the only home run of the game over the left-field fence in his first at-bat.

Huskies starter Angelo Vasquez then beaned the Sailors' No. 2 batter Jeff Franks, cracking his helmet. Franks shook it off and took first base and then proceeded to steal second a pitch later. He was driven in a few minutes later by a Tanner Barr single up the middle. Steamboat's JoJo Bucci, Stanfill and Ryan Marsden also had hits. Jordy Gunderson was walked and also stole home for a score.

Before the inning was over, the Sailors had chased Vasquez from the game. He was replaced by Jared Bortz, who would eventually slow down the Sailors' hit parade but not before Steamboat had taken a 7-0 lead in the game. Bortz pitched the final 6 and 2/3 innings in the game, giving up just one run until the sixth inning.

But the same driving snow that hampered the Huskies' pitchers in the first would come back to haunt the Sailors in the second.

"It's hard to focus when you are trying to look through little white flakes," Stanfill said after the game.

"It could have been a better game, but it turned out pretty good."

Stanfill surrendered a run in the second and another one in the third to the Huskies. In the third, Stanfill worked out of a bases-loaded situation to keep Battle Mountain from breaking out with a big inning.

But in the fourth, the Sailors' 8-2 lead was threatened as the Battle Mountain team rallied for five runs.

Steamboat's biggest error of the game came early in the inning as the Huskies tried to move a runner to second with a bunt. Gunderson, Steamboat's first baseman, wasn't able to handle the high throw and the runners advanced on the error. The mistake, combined with a couple of wild pitches, sparked the Huskies' rally.

"We played good when we had to," Vinson said. "But at times we just were not in this game. We lost our focus."

Stanfill said it took some words from his coach to pull him back into the game during the fourth.

"He said that if I had one more passed ball that was it," Stanfill said. "I brought it back and we got out of the inning."

Stanfill then shut down the Huskies' attack in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The Sailors' offense sealed the win in the bottom of the sixth as they exploded for eight runs to take a 16-7 lead. Stanfill helped his own cause in the inning with a two-run double that seemed to crush any hopes of a Huskies comeback.

"It was a nice shot," Stanfill said. "I had a lot of emotion when I stepped to the plate and I think it came through in the hit."

Stanfill finished the Huskies off in the top of the seventh, getting a pop fly, a groundout and a strikeout.

Stanfill struck out seven batters in the contest and the Sailors had 10 hits in the game.

Steamboat will return to the field this Saturday with a doubleheader in Delta. Steamboat is now 2-8 overall and 2-3 in league play.

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