Cougar baseball travels to Arizona for tournament
March 30, 2016
After some early cancellations due to weather, it took traveling to Arizona for the Niwot High School baseball team to get their season underway last week in a neutral tournament with teams from the west coast.
The Cougars went 1-3 in Arizona, winning their first game against the Hillsboro Spartans from Hillsboro, Oregon, by a score of 6-1.
Niwot dropped their next three games, however. They first lost to the Lancaster Eagles out of Lancaster, CA, 5-3. They went on to lose two more games by a one run deficit, first to the La Salle Falcons from Milwaukie, OR, 10-9, and secondly to the Sandy Pioneers out of Sandy, OR, 7-6.
Cougar Head Coach Craig McBride said despite not coming away with more than one win in the tournament, he was pleased with how his team performed.
“It was a weird tournament, we actually ended up scoring more runs than we gave up in the four games but were only able to get one win,” McBride said of his team. “I think we performed well. If we had just done a little better job in our relief pitching we would have come back home 4-0.”
Senior Tyler Meek pitched five innings of scoreless baseball in the win against Hillsboro, recording seven strikeouts and limiting the Spartans to only two hits. Senior Ford Ladd pitched two innings of relief as well and only allowed one run off of one hit, while also recording four strikeouts.
Meek and Ladd were also effective on the offensive end against Hillsboro, both getting a hit in two at bats and an RBI. Ladd also scored a run for the Cougars. Senior Christian Cloar had a similar stat line, with one hit in two at bats and an RBI.
Junior Skyler Messinger was perfect at the plate, recording three hits in three at bats while also scoring two runs and putting up an RBI on the night.
“[Messinger] hit the ball really hard this week, it was good to see him get going offensively,” McBride said. “[Ladd] wasn’t as sharp as he normally is but we aren’t worried about that, he will come along.”
Against Lancaster, the Cougars just couldn’t generate the offense needed to win the game. Messinger was the best pitcher on the night for Niwot, going five innings and giving up no runs and only two hits.
Senior Zach Morgan struggled however, giving up three of the five runs scored by the Eagles in less than an inning of work.
Offensively, only Cloar and Meek had multiple hits for the Cougars. Cloar had three hits in four at bats and Meek had two hits in four at bats, but neither of them was able to score a run. Senior Jacob Sims had one hit in two at bats and scored two of Niwot’s three runs.
McBride said the loss wasn’t easy to overcome, but he was happy with how his team continued to fight despite being down.
“We saw some good teams and some good pitching out there last week,” McBride said, “The guys never gave up, they fought hard to get wins in all of the games and come close to pulling it out.”
The offense showed up in the final two games of the tournament, but Niwot just couldn’t keep the other team off the scoreboard.
Junior Hunter Stephens was effective pitching against La Salle, going five innings and only giving up one run off of five hits, but seniors Romey Clement and Joe Wilson both struggled in their one inning of work, giving up four and five runs respectively.
Offensively against La Salle, Messinger yet again had the best day at the plate for Niwot. He had three hits in four at bats, while scoring a run and driving in three more. Senior Michael Agado also had an effective day, recording two hits in three at bats and also driving in three runs.
When it comes to relief pitching, McBride said there are not any easy solutions to the problems they are facing. With early season cancellations, Niwot will probably be playing at least three games a week through the rest of the schedule and will have to figure out a good rotation for late game scenarios.
“It didn’t help that Trevor Green wasn’t able to go for us in the tournament,” McBride said of his junior reliever. “He is going to be our closer when he is able to come back. I suspect that we would have won at least one of those games had he been closing the games out for us.”
It was another close one against Sandy for Niwot. Ladd shouldered the brunt of the work on the mound, giving up four earned runs off of five hits and recording eight strikeouts on the night.
McBride said even though Ladd is struggling early in the season, he is the number one starting pitcher for Niwot and will be crucial heading into conference play.
“[Ladd] wasn’t sharp on the fourth day, but he had pitched in every other game in the week and didn’t have his usual rest,” McBride said of his senior pitcher. “He is still our number one guy, with [Meek] and [Messinger] being numbers two and three. I think Ladd was frustrated with his hitting and that affected his pitching, but he will get that figured out.”
Sims led the way for the Cougars at the plate against the Pioneers, going 2-3 with two RBIs. Agado also contributed as well, with one hit in three at bats while recording an RBI and scoring two runs for Niwot.
With the tournament behind them, McBride said they are in a good position because they now know what to expect from their team but still have a few tricks up their sleeve.
“As a team, we know what we are about,” he said of his team’s mentality, “but we also have an advantage because we know what we need to work on and no one in district has seen us play. We played against some teams that are a similar level to what we will face moving forward and I think we competed very well.”
The Cougars take on their first Colorado opponent this week as they have a home and away series against Mountain View on Monday, March 28 and Wednesday, March 30. Then the team takes on Silver Creek in a home and away series on Thursday, March 31 and Saturday, April 2.