Rams blow by Cowboys

G. Sean KellyGSPI Sports Editor
Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxRoaring Fork first baseman Nate Chaney (21) catches the ball to complete a double play during the Rams first-round Class 3A Western Slope League District Tournament game against Gunnison Tuesday afternoon in Carbondale. Roaring Fork won the game15-7 to advance to Fridays semifinal round in Paonia.

CARBONDALE Dan Markoya saved some of his best stuff for what may be his final game on the Rams home field.The Roaring Fork High School senior pitched four solid innings and hit the first home run of his high school career to lead the Rams to a 15-7 victory over Gunnison in the first round of the Class 3A Western Slope League District tournament Tuesday evening.It helped that Markoya got plenty of run support early, some of which came from himself.The Rams, buoyed by RBI doubles from Markoya and Taylor Arbaney, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never trailed in the contest.It definitely builds confidence, Markoya said of the cushion. It makes you feel good when (everyones) hitting behind you.Roaring Fork kept rolling with a four-run second inning in which Markoya stroked another two-RBI double for 7-0 lead.Gunnison mounted a rally in the third inning, with some help from the Roaring Fork defense. The Rams committed three infield errors, including two on double-play balls, and the Cowboys took advantage with five unearned runs in the stanza.We had some (bad) hops here and there, but youve just got to keep playing, Markoya said.All five runs were unearned and thats something weve got to get away from, added Roaring Fork head coach Eric Nieslanik, whose Rams advance to the district semifinals Friday against Olathe.The Cowboys comeback was short-lived, however, as Roaring Fork plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame and another in the fourth for a 10-5 lead. Gunnison drew within three in the fifth inning with a pair of runs against Roaring Fork reliever Jake Bowman, but Markoyas three-run shot in the bottom of the inning again gave the Rams a comfortable lead of 13-7 and the Rams added two more runs in the sixth.It kind of played out exactly how we wanted it to, said Nieslanik, who was able to get four different pitchers in the game. (The early lead) kept us that little cushion so we didnt have to get into that tense mode.Markoya finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs. Leadoff hitter Max Green was also 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.Bowman gave up the only two earned runs before Taylor Arbaney came in for a scoreless 1 1-3 innings of work. Staff ace Jake Boyle worked the seventh inning and struck out three batters.Roaring Fork advances to the semifinal round against top-seed Olathe Friday at 2 p.m. at Volunteer Park in Paonia. Olathe defeated Aspen 6-5 Tuesday. The winner plays in the title game Saturday at 2 p.m., while the loser plays at 11 a.m. in the third-place game. The top three teams from the district tourney advance to the Class 3A State Tournament regional round. In other first round contests, Eagle Valley downed Basalt 12-1 and Hotchkiss defeated Cedaredge 11-1.

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