The wins have been few and far between for the youthful Niwot baseball team in 2019, but head coach Adam Strah said there have been definite signs of improvement down the stretch. Unfortunately, that wasn’t much in evidence in the Cougars’ 10-0 loss to Mountain View on April 27.
The blowout capped off a hectic four-game stretch for the Cougars, who are still making up for early season weather postponements.
The week started off on a promising note for the Cougars, with an 8-6 win over Berthoud on April 23. It was their third win of the season, and their third win over a Tri-Valley league opponent. On April 9, Niwot beat Skyline 5-3 for their first win of 2019, then a week later went to Mead, where they beat the Mavericks by the same score.
Senior Jaryd Meek and junior Felipe Castro came up big for the Cougars at the plate against the Spartans, with two hits and three RBIs apiece. In five innings on the mound, sophomore Micah Sheats gave up five earned runs and struck out five. In relief, junior Clay Kleespies struck out another three in two innings, surrendering just one hit.
Niwot resumed its league schedule on April 25, with the opening game of a home-and-home series against Mountain View, a perennial contender for the Northern League title.
For six and a half innings, the Cougars held a 4-0 lead, but the Mountain Lions found their bats in the bottom of the seventh, and pulled off a 5-4 walk-off comeback.
Freshman Nick Yard fanned five and walked just one in a very solid six-inning appearance for the Cougars, and also helped himself at the plate, with a hit and an RBI. Castro (1) and junior Tim Stokes (2), the team’s leading hitter, combined for Niwot’s three other runs.
Unfortunately, Mountain View remembered to bring their bats for the entire second game, along with their top pitcher. They jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead off of back-to-back doubles in the top of the second inning, and never looked back. In all, eight of the Mountain Lions’ 11 hits were for extra bases—four doubles, a triple, and three home runs.
“They’re always a good-hitting team, just a good hitting program,” Strah said afterwards. “But it certainly also shows how well Nick Yard threw against them on Thursday to be able to shut them down, since what they did today is probably a little more typical of their production.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars managed just three hits in their first shut-out loss of the year, two from Sheats and a double for sophomore Will Smith, who also reached base twice on walks. Other than that, Niwot base runners were in short supply.
“That was their number one on the mound, and he’s very good,” Strah said. “You can probably talk to a lot of teams in this area who have faced him and have a similar story. He’s not very big, but he throws downhill, and he’s sneaky, sneaky fast and hard to see. So it was a frustrating day for us, but a lot of teams have had the experience against him.”
With the loss, the Cougars fell to 3-14 on the year, with six games to go in the season. With no chance of reaching the postseason, Strah said he and the team are striving to spend the final weeks building on some tough lessons from early in the year.
“There are some things coming together that are certainly encouraging, but our record is certainly not what we want or picture. So it’s still showing up every day to do my best and do my part in getting them better. I think the more that we as a coaching staff show up with our passion and energy, that is only going to float to the kids.”