Steamboat Springs High School’s Tyler Brown pitches in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday in Craig. Steamboat lost the first game to Rifle, 15-3, but bounced back to win the second, 6-3.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs High School’s Tyler Brown pitches in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday in Craig. Steamboat lost the first game to Rifle, 15-3, but bounced back to win the second, 6-3.

Steamboat baseball bounces back to split doubleheader

Sailors team loses, 15-3, in first game against Rifle, then wins, 6-3

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Steamboat’s Tommy Lyon ducks out of the way of an inside pitch on Saturday during a doubleheader against Rifle. The Sailors won the second game of the day, 6-3.

— A drizzling rain made for a bad start to a day of baseball for the Steamboat Springs High School team. A first-inning injury to ace starting pitcher Alan Capistron made it worse.

Five hours later, as a sudden and strong wind lashed the field at the Woodbury Sports Complex in Craig and rain drove all but the most dedicated fans to their vehicles, things didn’t seem much better. But then the rain stopped, the sun emerged from behind the clouds, and the Sailors put away the final out of the doubleheader, winning their first game in seven tries and earning a split of the day’s games against Rifle.

Steamboat lost the first game 15-3, but rebounded in the second to win, 6-3.

“The first game was a downer. We just weren’t awake, weren’t sharp,” Steamboat coach Dave Roy said. “In the second, that was good. That puts us in pretty good shape to end the season on a positive note.”

Capistron’s injury, a re-aggravation of what has been a nagging back issue, came after he had faced just one batter in the top of the first inning. Right away, it seemed to cast a dark cloud over Steamboat’s day. Tommy Lyon, who was scheduled to start the day’s second game, ended up pitching most of the first.

That left the team’s third starter, Matt Watwood, to pitch the second game.

“Magic Matt,” as he’s called by his teammates, came through.

He struck out five and deftly picked his way through the Bears lineup. He allowed one run in the first, and two more scored on a third-inning error. Still, he came up with big outs with runners on base in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings and slammed the door on Rifle, securing Steamboat’s second Western Slope win of the season.

The weather cleared before the day’s first game but picked up again late in the second. Watwood recorded the final three outs in a persistent rainstorm, tossing the ball in the air to himself on the mound with a calm smile even as strong gusts whipped the field.

“It was calmer to me. I was having fun out there,” Watwood said about the soggy final inning. “My curveball was working pretty good and the fastball had some pop to it.”

Were it not for the best game of Garrett Pugh’s short high school varsity career, those three runs might have been enough to render Watwood’s effort meaningless.

Defensive errors plagued Steamboat throughout the first game, but beyond that, the Sailors struggled to get on base and drive-in runs against tough-as-nails starter Chris He­­­sselberg.

Hesselberg recorded nine strikeouts in the first game.

Steamboat was behind again in the second game, down 1-0 entering the third inning before Pugh finally got the big hit the Sailors desperately needed. Lyon got things started with a walk and led the way as four of the next five Sailors got on base. He scored when Tyler Brown drew a bases-loaded walk, the third of the inning.

Pugh then blasted a one-out grand slam to center field, giving Steamboat a 5-1 lead it would never give back.

Catcher Brandon Clark tacked on one more run an inning later with a solo shot to left field.

“I thought it looked like a good pitch, so I took the swing,” said Pugh, playing in his first varsity doubleheader. “It felt really good.”

The win doesn’t do much to get Steamboat (3-11 overall and 2-7 in the league) back in the running for a Western Slope League crown. The early-season drought set the team in a deep hole. But with another doubleheader on the horizon next weekend against Battle Mountain, for the first time in weeks things were looking sunny to the Sailors.

“We needed to get that spark back. We needed to show people we can come back and do it,” Watwood said. “We can finish off the season strong. We should be able to take two games next weekend.”

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