Grand Junction The improvement of Steamboat Springs High School's baseball team has begun to show itself on the field. But, the point at which the Sailors will become a force in the Western Slope League is yet to arrive.
"These guys play well when they're tuned in and turned on - they play very well," head coach Dave Roy said. "Now we have to learn how to come back from adversity."
Such was the case in Saturday's doubleheader loss to Palisade.
Steamboat took a 4-1 first-game lead into the sixth inning against the Bulldogs. Then the dam broke.
Ryan Girardi hit an Alex Wood fastball over the left field fence to trim the Sailors lead to 1. An inning later, Palisade won on a slicing fly ball by cleanup hitter Jesse Kirstatter that barely slipped inside the right field foul line.
While Girardi's home run sparked the Bulldogs, the big fly wasn't the key to the Sailors' loss.
"Those things happen," Roy said. "Alex got (a pitch) up, and (Girardi) hit it hard. More power to him."
Rather, it was Wood's diminishing velocity that cost him and the Sailors the chance of picking up a valuable league win.
"I think Alex was getting a little tired. He'd thrown over 100 pitches," Roy said. "But he wanted to get the win. And he was one out away from it."
What stood in his way after retiring the Bulldogs' first two batters in the seventh was the middle of their lineup.
No. 2 hitter Mike Seriani poked his second hit in three at bats to keep Palisade alive. A double by Travis Del Moral tied the game at 4. Then Kirstatter, who had been held to a second-inning base hit, golfed a Wood pitch to the opposite field to score Del Moral from second.
"When it came off the bat, it looked like it was going to stay fair, but it started to tail. I thought it was going to go out. But thank goodness it stayed in," Kirstatter said.
The Bulldogs senior's walk-off hit deflated Steamboat. The Bulldogs dominated the second game of the doubleheader, winning 14-0 in five innings.
"I felt very good about the team the way we played the first game. Then we came out flat," Roy said. "We made a bunch of errors in the first two innings and gave up some runs. We lost it basically in those first two innings. Our concentration wasn't there. The focus wasn't there. Unfortunately, we got down and we couldn't come back from it."
And Palisade wasn't about to give Steamboat an opportunity to recover from the doldrums of Game 1 when the afternoon contest began.
After taking a 2-0 lead in the first, Palisade took advantage of four Steamboat errors to open a 7-0 margin after the second. Girardi had a role in both of Palisade's early rallies.
His double scored one of the Bulldogs' first inning runs. Girardi rapped an RBI single as part of the next inning's five-run onslaught.