Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Cougars lose to Longmont in season finale


McBride steps down as head coach

Before the 2017 season began, Niwot head baseball coach Craig McBride had a roster full of nine potential pitchers and a heart full of hope. Facing a schedule full of dangerous conference foes including Mountain View and Silver Creek, the longtime coach was nonetheless cautiously optimistic about his senior-heavy team’s chances to sneak into the postseason “if our pitching goes well.”

Of course, the Cougars and their fans now know how this story ends. Niwot’s pitching did not go terribly well this season, despite a couple of notable individual performances here and there. Whether due to injuries, inexperience or just plain bad luck, too many winnable games slipped away due to inconsistency on the mound.

Head coach Craig McBride had decidedly mixed feelings about his team’s performance on the season. “I told the boys that when all was said and done we didn’t deserve to go to the playoffs because we dropped those crucial games,” said McBride of his team’s close losses to lower ranked teams such as Centaurus. “On the flip-side, we should be there because we’re a good enough team to be there. We definitely were disappointed in the results, and I think we underachieved a bit, but that’s the way baseball goes sometimes.”

McBride said that in hindsight, his preseason expectation of “nine arms” on the pitching staff was premature. “We did have some lingering arm issues that we had hoped would get cleared up by the second half of the season, and that didn’t happen,” he admitted. “And we had some guys that didn’t necessarily want the ball. That’s the biggest thing in high school baseball. You have to have pitchers that want the ball and want to be the guy on the bump.”

Niwot’s erratic pitching was again on display in the final game of the season, the second of a home-and-home series against the Longmont Trojans. Niwot won the first game 11-1, and was hoping to end the season on a high-note with a repeat blowout of their cross-town rival. Junior Caleb Martinez, who gave up just two hits and struck out six in the earlier win, was back on the mound for the Cougars, hoping to recapture some of that magic.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, Longmont wasn’t going down so easily. Needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt, the Trojans got to Martinez early, and by the end of the third inning, they had jumped out to a 6-3 lead.

Martinez held the Trojans scoreless through the middle innings, but left early in the sixth. At that point Niwot’s pitching fell apart, as it had so often during the season. In a combined 1.2 innings of relief, seniors Jordy Wills and Hunter Stephen gave up five hits and six runs, giving Longmont a 12-3 lead. A Cougar rally in the bottom of the seventh fell several runs short, and the Trojans came away with the 12-5 victory.

Once again, the Niwot offense held up its end of the bargain, only to see their efforts go for naught. Four Cougars had multiple hits on the day, including senior Skye Messinger, who had three hits, including a double and a home run. Messinger ended his senior season with a .484 batting average, third highest in the Northern League. He led the conference in slugging percentage (.921), and tied for the league lead in homeruns (4), and triples (4).

“Skyler didn’t exceed my expectations, because we all felt strongly that he would have a season like that,” said McBride of his standout shortstop, who late last year signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Kansas.

“Going up to that high of a level is going to be a new experience for him,” continued McBride. “But he’s got such exceptional talent, and defensively his range and his hand quickness is amazing. He’s clearly the best shortstop of anybody we’ve seen. Hitting wise he led the main categories.”

Senior Joey Neve finished the season strong, going 3-for-3 against the Trojans, extending his hitting streak to six games. He also boosted his average to .310 on the year. Junior Colton Goldfarb and freshman Cameron Hassert each had two hits and an RBI. Goldfarb (.316) led the team in doubles this season, with nine, which was also good for second in the Northern League.

Seniors Trevor Green (2) and Chandler Snead (1) combined for three runs, despite no hits between them. Green, who was originally slated to be Niwot’s number one pitcher, was one of the Cougars’ more prolific hitters this season, with 20 hits in 58 at-bats (.345), nine of them for extra bases.

Seniors Zach Kinnison and Jake Sims were hitless on the day, as was sophomore Joey DesEnfants. Both Kinnison (.310) and Sims (.326) ended the year with .300+ averages, and Kinnison led the team in being hit-by-pitch (4). DesEnfants (.250), meanwhile, had five doubles on the year, and led the team in sacrifice bunts (6).

Martinez was the losing pitcher. He finished the game with six earned runs allowed on 10 hits, with a walk and just two strikeouts. Despite missing half of the season due to CHSAA transfer rules, Martinez was Niwot’s winningest pitcher on the season, with three wins and just one loss. He also led the team in strikeouts, with 29, and his 2.52 ERA put him seventh among Northern League pitchers. As he has been all season, McBride was straightforward in his assessment of Martinez’s impact on the team, despite missing half of the season.

“Caleb did a phenomenal job in his starts,” he said. “He came in and really gave us a lift.”

Stephens, in 10 appearances this year, had 23 strikeouts, while Wills had 13 in his eight appearances.

Looking ahead to next year, McBride said the program will take a hit from loss of 10 varsity players to graduation, but the play of underclassmen such as Hassert and DesEnfants bodes well for the future of baseball at Niwot.

“DesEnfants is going to be a great player. He is maturing into one of the leaders,” he said. “And Cam Hassert, he’s only a freshman but I think he’s going to follow in the footsteps of Skye Messinger.”

“We have some good young guys, and Caleb will anchor that pitching staff,” he continued. “We have a strong group in next year’s freshman class too, and in the next couple of years I’ll think they’ll bounce back and be a contender.”

It’s a future, however, that won’t include McBride, who announced his resignation as Niwot head baseball coach to his players last Thursday. McBride took the Cougars to the state championship game in 2014, where Niwot lost to Green Mountain.

“I’m done with coaching for a bit,” said McBride, who added that he planned to devote more time to his business and family. “I’ve had 30 years in coaching, and I’m just ready to be done for a while.” In a letter to players and parents, McBride said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my time at Niwot and have many great memories that will stay with me forever. It has been a pleasure and an honor to coach all of the boys who have come through our program. I have made many lifetime relationships through baseball that I am extremely grateful for.”

McBride will continue to help with the administration of the summer program, and is looking forward to a smooth transition with the next coach.

5/1 — Longmont 12, Niwot 5

Trojans (8-7, 6-7) 330 000 6 — 12 15 03

Cougars (7-11, 4-8) 021 000 2 — 05 08 01

Hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Skye Messinger 4-2-3-1, Cameron Hassert 2-0-2-1, Trevor Green 2-2-0-0, Jake Sims 4-0-0-0, Colton Goldfarb 3-0-2-1, Joey Neve 3-0-3-1, Zach Kinnison 4-0-0-0, Joey DesEnfants 1-0-0-0, Hunter Stephens 4-0-0-0, Chandler Snead 1-1-0-0, Griffin Mitchell 0-0-0-0.

2B — Messinger HR — Messinger

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Caleb Martinez 5.1-10-6-4-1-2 Hunter Stephens .2-1-1-1-1-0 Jordan Wills 1-4-5-5-0-1


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