Rams come up short against Cowboys
On an emotional Senior Day at Ron Patch Field in Carbondale, the Roaring Fork Rams’ baseball team went toe-to-toe with the visiting Gunnison Cowboys — a top 10 team in the state in 3A — for about four innings, holding a 4-2 lead, before running out of gas in the final two innings of a 15-4 loss Saturday afternoon.
Honoring the six seniors of Taylor Carney, Aldo Pinela, Hayden Bernot, Axel Palomera, Eduardo Yanez and Jake Kelley prior to first pitch, the Rams rode the momentum into start of the game as sophomore pitcher Dawson Kuhl pounded the zone early and often, getting some help behind him defensively from Pinela in centerfield and freshman second baseman Eli Nickamin, getting through two innings quickly, giving up just one run on an RBI groundout to short.
With Kuhl dealing on the mound, the Rams tried to get him some runs early in the game but just couldn’t come up with that key hit, stranding runners on the corner in the first inning and a runner in scoring position in the second inning.
Kuhl struggled slightly in the top of the third, walking the leadoff hitter before junior catcher Ralph Good threw out the runner at second on an attempted steal. But Kuhl walked another batter with two outs before giving up a run-scoring single to his counterpart on the mound, Ryan Eden, to give the Cowboys a 2-0 lead through three innings of play.
The Rams tried to get going in the bottom of the third, but Pinela, Good and junior Drew Broadhurst all flew out to retire the side order.
Kuhl then bounced back on the mound in the fourth, giving up a one-out single before inducing a pop-out to Broadhurst in shallow left and a lineout to Pinela in center, who made a leaping grab on the run to end the inning.
Riding the momentum from Pinela’s great grab in the top half of the inning, Roaring Fork struck for four runs in the bottom of the inning as Kuhl led off with a walk before getting thrown out at third on Bernot’s line-drive double to left that just got over the outfielder’s head, bouncing up against the fence. Kuhl had to freeze on the line drive and didn’t get a great jump on the play once the ball fell in.
With one out in the inning and Bernot on second, the Rams started to pass the bat back as junior Layne Crisp bounced a single into left to put runners on first and third before junior Ronnie Petetan roped a single to right on a perfectly-executed hit-and-run, scoring Bernot and sending Crisp to third, pulling the Rams to within one run, 2-1.
Kelley then came through with a big single to left-center to drive in Crisp, tying the game at 2-2 with runners on first and second with just one out.
Palomera then moved the runners up 90 feet with a groundout to first before Pinela ripped a two-run double to left, scoring Petetan and Kelley to give the Rams a 4-2 lead, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
But that would be all the excitement for the Rams as the Cowboys answered with six runs in the top of the fifth, chasing Kuhl from the mound.
Carney came on in relief for the Rams, but the Cowboys just hit the ball where it was pitched despite the senior living around the plate.
Following a quick bottom of the fifth inning, Gunnison added seven more runs in the top of the sixth, chasing Carney to face Broadhurst, who finally retired the side after allow four runs to cross, sending the Rams into their final at-bat trailing 15-4.
Pinela would collect an infield single and then steal second, but a groundout by Good to third ended the threat, giving the Cowboys a win on the road to wrap up their regular season.
“We’ve been playing good ball, but when you give a team like that a few extra walks and a few extra bases and then they start to hit, that’s what happens,” Roaring Fork Head Coach Marty Madsen said. “I knew that we needed to throw strikes and play good defense and hit the ball today to compete. We had that great inning where we scored four and chased their starter, but then they worked some at-bats and got a few hits off of us. That’s the game of baseball right there.
“We played with them, but we’re bummed that the score looked the way it did, because it wasn’t like that today.”
With the loss, Roaring Fork falls to 8-10, 4-4 on the season. The Rams will travel to Moffat Monday night for a make-up game, which will serve as the final game of the season for both teams.
Despite a difficult end to the season for the Rams, the major leap in the standing from last season to this season is a testament to the foundation the senior class put down over the last four years.
“It’s been a good year,” Madsen said. “I really wanted to get this group of seniors to the playoffs, but to come where we came from in the past, it’s been pretty awesome. This group bought into the grind of the season early on in their varsity career, and the result is what you saw this year. They really changed the culture here, because in their freshman year there was a lot of riff-raff. Guys weren’t committed and just playing baseball for something to do.
“But these seniors changed the culture and the commitment level. It’s pretty awesome because now the young guys below them see how it is here. I’m super excited for the future, but super bummed to see these guys go.”
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After bowing out of the 3A state soccer playoffs in the quarterfinals and semifinals the past two seasons, the Roaring Fork Rams finally get their shot at a state title on Saturday.