Early assessments from University's ⚾ season opener, plus a team-by-team baseball preview

Even if the forecast calls for incredibly wintry conditions today, springtime in the Patriot League h
The Playbook
Early assessments from University's ⚾ season opener, plus a team-by-team baseball preview
By The Playbook • Issue #72 • View online
Even if the forecast calls for incredibly wintry conditions today, springtime in the Patriot League has officially begun.
Enjoy the first bit of coverage for what will be an exciting spring baseball season!

University's Koy Jorgensen (21) pitches against Peak to Peak on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
University's Koy Jorgensen (21) pitches against Peak to Peak on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
The Lead
Around the Patriot League — Baseball Edition
Brush Beetdiggers
  • COACH: Tom Odle, first season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Beetdiggers went 5-4 in league (fifth), 8-12 overall. They lost to Bennett 11-1 in the first round of the Region 2 districts.
  • FIRST GAME: Their first game was Tuesday against Fort Morgan. The Beetdiggers won 11-6.
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Jayde Queen led Brush a year ago with a .412 batting average, 13 RBI and six doubles.

Eaton Reds
  • COACH: Todd Hernandez, third season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Reds went 8-1 in league (tied for first), 19-5 overall. Eaton was one of the final four teams in the state tournament before losing to Faith Christian 5-4.
  • FIRST GAME: At Mead, 4 p.m. today in Longmont (weather permitting).
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Jared Ure is Eaton’s best two-way player. This past season, he led the team with a .432 batting average and six home runs. He recorded a 2.27 earned-run average and a 5-2 record as a pitcher.
Eaton's Scott Grable, right, slides into second base as Faith Christian's Blake Passamaneck reaches to tag him out during the 3A semifinal game this past spring at Butch Butler Field in Greeley. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Eaton's Scott Grable, right, slides into second base as Faith Christian's Blake Passamaneck reaches to tag him out during the 3A semifinal game this past spring at Butch Butler Field in Greeley. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Estes Park Bobcats
  • COACH: Jeff Collins, first season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Bobcats went 0-9 in league, 0-18 overall. They didn’t make the postseason.
  • FIRST GAME: Estes Park has already played three games, including two against Weld Central. The Bobcats split the series 1-1, losing 6-2 in the first game and winning the second game 8-6. Estes Park then lost to Prospect Ridge Academy 10-0 on Tuesday
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Bert Chrastil led the team in almost every offensive category — batting average (.500), runs (12), hits (24), doubles (4) and triples (2) a year ago. He is also arguably the Bobcats’ best pitcher.

Liberty Common Eagles
  • COACH: Zach Bissell, second season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Eagles went 2-7 in league (eighth), 3-15 overall. They didn’t make the postseason.
  • FIRST GAME: At home against Valley, 4 p.m. March 25
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Brandt Bachelet was the Eagles’ best pitcher this past season, as he had an 3.82 earned-run average, and opponents hit .133 against him.

Platte Valley Broncos
  • COACH: Jason Arkulari, third season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Broncos went 3-6 in league (seventh), 9-11 overall. They lost to Colorado Academy 10-0 in the first round of the Region 6 districts.
  • FIRST GAME: Platte Valley already had its first game against Fort Lupton on Friday. It won 11-0.
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Brandon Kerbs finished this past season with a .333 batting average, 13 RBI and 11 stolen bases.

Resurrection Christian Cougars
  • COACH: Ernie Romero, second season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Cougars went 6-3 in league (tied for third), 13-7 overall. They lost to Faith Christian 7-2 in the Region 4 finals.
  • FIRST GAME: vs. Mesa Ridge, at 2 p.m. Thursday at Runyon Field Sports Complex in Pueblo
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore Zach Cook was Resurrection Christian’s hits leader a year ago (29 hits). He hit .397 with 16 RBI, two doubles and a home run.

Sterling Tigers
  • COACH: Jeff Squier, fourth season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Tigers went 6-3 in league (tied for third), 15-5 overall. They lost in the first round of the Region 3 tournament, 5-4 to Kent Denver.
  • FIRST GAME: Home against Fort Lupton, 4 p.m. Monday
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Drew Book was one of the league’s top hitters a year ago, hitting .403 with 22 RBI, seven doubles, two triples and two home runs. 

Strasburg Indians
  • COACH: Dallas Hacker, third season
  • 2018 RECAP: Strasburg went 2-7 in league (ninth), 8-10 overall and did not qualify for the postseason.
  • FIRST GAME: The Indians open at Byers at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Mitchell Davis was Strasburg’s ace a year ago, recording a 2-5 record and a 5.03 earned-run average with 31 strikeouts and 13 walks. Davis’ strikeout-to-walk ratio was impressive a year ago, and his overall success this spring will certainly be tied to the team’s success.

University Bulldogs
  • COACH: Casey Miller, second season
  • 2018 RECAP: The Bulldogs won their fourth state title in program history. They went 8-1 in league, won the Patriot League title and were 23-3 overall. They demolished Lamar 21-2 in the title game.
  • FIRST GAME: University opened its season at home against Peak to Peak on Tuesday. The Bulldogs won 11-1 in five innings.
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Kalob Padilla was displaying bona fide ace form on the mound before suffering an elbow fracture late this past season. He had a 5-1 record and a 2.12 earned-run average with 42 strikeouts and 13 walks in 29 2/3 innings.

Valley Vikings
  • COACH: Steve Kissler, 13th season
  • 2018 RECAP: A year after winning the state title, the Vikings were middle of the pack, going 5-4 in league (tied for fifth), 10-10 overall. Valley lost in the first round of the Region 3 tournament 4-3 to Cedaredge.
  • FIRST GAME: The Vikings opened their season at home against Fort Lupton on Tuesday. They won 7-0.
  • PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Tyler Kissler led the team in most offensive categories a year ago, hitting .426 with 20 RBI, four doubles and a triple.
* Note: Frontier Academy does not have a baseball program.
University’s Chayden Cox (3) slides into home plate under Peak to Peak catcher Nathan Poretz on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
University’s Chayden Cox (3) slides into home plate under Peak to Peak catcher Nathan Poretz on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
What’s working, what’s fixable and what, exactly, is pressure, as defending champion University Bulldogs begin their baseball season
By Bobby Fernandez, bfernandez@patriotplaybook.com
The manner in which the University baseball team dispatched fellow top-10 team Peak to Peak on Tuesday looked a wee bit familiar.
The Bulldogs made quick work of the Pumas via an 11-1, five-inning, mercy rule-shortened win in both teams’ season opener at Tom Roche Field.
The last time University was on the field, it was powering past another fellow contender in just the same fashion. Earning the fourth state title in program history, the Bulldogs defeated Lamar 21-2 in five innings just across town at Butch Butler Field on June 2.
Now, if you ask second-year coach Casey Miller if his team is just as good now as it was in this past season’s finale, Miller would likely scoff. Any coach would this early in the season.
However, even the proud, battled-tested players on Miller’s team are capable enough of self-criticism to recognize there are things the team needs to work on, as well as things the team is doing well right now.
Casey Miller postgame comments, March 12, 2019 against Peak to Peak
Casey Miller postgame comments, March 12, 2019 against Peak to Peak
So, with one game in the books — and perhaps two dozen more to go — here is a look at what the Bulldogs are doing right, what they’ll look to fix and what the team’s mindset is playing with the pressure of being the defending Class 3A champion:
What’s working?
To state the obvious, plenty of things are working well for University at the start of the season.
The Bulldogs are first and Peak to Peak is seventh in CHSAANow.com’s 3A poll, and University appeared to be in an entirely difficult class than the Pumas.
But, to be specific, there is one area in which the Bulldogs are already in midseason form: team chemistry.
“We have a lot of good team-bonding, everyone is bonding great,” senior pitcher/infielder Kalob Padilla said. “Then, during practice, everyone is just hitting the ball really well.”
University's Braden Furister, left, slides safely into third base, as Peak to Peak's Haydon Wilcox gathers the ball Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
University's Braden Furister, left, slides safely into third base, as Peak to Peak's Haydon Wilcox gathers the ball Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
What do the Bulldogs need to work on?
A team doesn’t ascend to a championship level by being easily content.
With that said, according to Padilla and fellow senior Braden Furister, two of the areas in which the team needs to keep fine-tuning are actually two of the areas in which the Bulldogs seemed to excel Tuesday: Staying patient at the plate while being assertive on the mound.
University out-hit Peak to Peak 10-1.
Yet, as the season progresses, the Bulldogs must find that right balance between being aggressive at the plate and not being too aggressive, Furister said.
“We just need to take our time, make sure we’re calm up there, make sure we’re not getting down, in our heads,” said Furister, the team’s starting first baseman.
University head coach Casey Miller gets his team motivated early in the game against Peak to Peak on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
University head coach Casey Miller gets his team motivated early in the game against Peak to Peak on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Patience is at far less of a premium for Padilla and company on the mound, though.
According to Padilla — who had to miss all of the postseason a year ago with a fracture in his throwing elbow — he and the rest of the pitching staff need to continue to get better at jumping on batters, early and often.
“Our pitches need to stay down and we need to work ahead,” he said. “We need a first-pitch strike instead of a first-pitch ball. We need to keep our pitch count lower by minimizing pitches.”
Playing with pressure
Any team in any sport, at all level, carries with it a high level of pressure as a defending champion.
That’s a given.
What’s more of a variable, though, is how a team chooses to handle that pressure.
University's Chayden Cox pulls in a flyball against Peak to Peak on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
University's Chayden Cox pulls in a flyball against Peak to Peak on Tuesday at Tom Roche Field in Greeley. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Some teams embrace the pressure. Others shy away from it altogether.
The Bulldogs seem to have adopted an approach somewhere in between. They’re using the weight of being the defending state champion as a motivator, but they are not obsessing over the pressure of trying to repeat as champion.
“We have this saying, ‘We have the U (University’s logo) on our hat and a bigger target on our backs,’ ” said Furister, who had four RBI on Tuesday. “Knowing that people are coming after us, we have to make sure we’re on top of our game. … We have that big target on our back, and we’re ready for it.”
Yet, as cognizant as Furister and his teammates are of the natural pressure of being a defending champion, they aren’t exactly spending every waking moment yapping about what they did this past year and what that means for this season.
“To be honest, I haven’t heard much talk about (the pressure),” Miller said. “It’s a new year. The target on our back is always going to be big. And, for whoever would have won state last year, the target is going to be huge. So, we know that we’re going to get everybody’s best. … And, I’m OK with that.”
Playbook Prime Performance
Boys
Bobby: Braden Furister. The University senior steps into a larger role this spring with the Bulldogs’ defending champion baseball team. Judging by Tuesday’s season opener, it looks like he’s ready for such an increase in responsibility. Furister was red hot at the plate, hitting 2 for 3 with two doubles and four RBI.
Quinn: Bryson Becker. The Platte Valley senior was having fun during the Weld County Boys Basketball All-Star game. He recorded 15 rebounds and had one heck of an impressive dunk.
Girls
Bobby: Laramie Woods. The Highland senior comes from the smallest school represented in the Weld County Girls Basketball All-Star Game, but her performance stood large. She filled up the box score with 13 points, six rebounds (five offensive), two steals and an assist, deservingly earning the game’s Most Valuable Player honors.
Quinn: Sydney Booth. Although the basketball season is over, the Eaton senior showed out in the girls all-star game. She recorded eight points, five rebounds and four blocks. She also finished second in the 3-point contest with six 3s. By the way, she didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer during the entire regular season.
Wha'dya Think?
Make predictions, win prizes. Play below!
Make predictions, win prizes. Play below!
Don. S of Windsor is atop the Wha'dya Think leaderboard. But today is your chance to overtake Don S. and prove the prestige of your prediction powers.
You will have three more chances to make your predictions before the person at the top of the leaderboard is chosen as the winner for March and will win a prize.
Teams: Eaton and University baseball throughout this week.
With the baseball season underway, Eaton and University have a tough first week of games. Together, they play five opponents with a combined record of 53-30 from last season.
Question: At the end of this week (Sunday), will Eaton and University have a combined winning record?
  • Yes, combined they will win at least three games and have a winning record (click to vote)
  • No, combined they will win no more than two games and have a losing record (click to vote)
Rules: Click to vote and you will be redirected to another page to answer two tiebreaker questions (more chances for points). The normal question is worth one point and the tiebreakers (or the person closest to it) are one point each. Good luck!
Athletes of the Week Results
Your votes are in. Here is who you voted for on Twitter for this past week’s Patriot League Athletes of the Week.
Congrats to Addie and Jack!
Scoreboard
Tuesday
Baseball
University 11, Peak to Peak 1, 5 inn.
PPHS 000 10 — 1 1 2
UHS 032 24 — 11 10 0
UHS — Kalob Padilla (0H, 0ER, 2BB, 5SO), Koy Jorgensen (3rd, W, 1-0, 1H, 1ER, 1BB, 7SO) and Alex Martinez. 2B – Braden Furister 2, Joe Medina, Padilla, Colton Widler; RBI – Furister 4, Widler 2, Chayden Cox, River Jackson, Jorgensen, Medina.

Valley 7, Fort Lupton 0
FHS 000 000 0 0 2 3
VHS 420 100 X 7 8 0
VHS — Servando Perez (1H, 0ER, 0BB, 3SO), Jason Garcia (2nd, W, 1-0, 0H, 0ER, 2BB, 8SO), Ty Stotts (5th, 1H, 0ER, 0BB, 5SO). 2B — Stotts; 3B — Tyler Kissler; RBI — Stotts 4, Kissler 2, Dominik Triana.

Brush 11, Fort Morgan 6
BHS 100 061 311
FMHS 006 000 0 6

Prospect Ridge Academy 10, Estes Park 0
EHS 000 000 0
PRA 010 324 10

Girls soccer
Peak to Peak 1, Niwot 0
Faith Christian 3, Frontier Academy 1

Monday
Girls tennis
Sterling 5, Holy Family 2
Coming up in Friday's edition of The Playbook
We’ll preview the track and field and girls golf seasons. Plus, we’ll provide you with video highlights from Tuesday’s Weld County All-Star Basketball Games!
Takes for reading! See you Friday.
Bobby Fernandez, The Playbook Publisher
Quinn Ritzdorf, The Playbook Reporter
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