Roaring Fork baseball team completes rebound to reach Class 3A playoffs
Post Independent Sports Editor
CARBONDALE — They’re in.
An 0-8 start to the season didn’t stop them. Neither did a preseason roster that had a wide variety of experience, from seasoned seniors to players who had barely seen a baseball field.
Needless to say, nobody would have thought a month ago that the Roaring Fork High School baseball team would be crashing the Class 3A postseason party. Not even them.
“I thought there would be no way we’d make it,” senior first baseman Johnny Nieslanik said after the Rams swept Moffat County, 16-4 and 7-1, in both team’s Class 3A Western Slope League doubleheader finale on Saturday. “I still thought we had a chance to get close, but I didn’t think we’d be here.”
But they are.
Roaring Fork (7-12 overall, 7-9 league) lost its first eight games and 11 of its first 13 games, with four losses coming via the 10-run mercy rule and two coming on forfeit losses to Gunnison on April 20. The Rams, however, won five of their last six league games to claim fifth place in the league standings and the WSL’s fifth and final berth in the Class 3A state tournament.
Chances are likely that the Rams will draw a very low seed when the Colorado High School Activities Association announces the playoff pairings later this week. Roaring Fork doesn’t care.
“We were oh-and-awful,” Roaring Fork coach Marty Madsen said. “We knew with the seniors we had and a bit of practice we could improve, but we’ve done more than that. As the saying goes, the stars aligned and the baseball gods are with us.”
The Bulldogs (6-11, 6-10) held a one-game edge over Roaring Fork in the league standings prior to Saturday’s doubleheader and came out as the aggressors in the opener, taking a 4-0 lead in their half of the first inning. The Rams, however, sent 14 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first en route to a 10-run frame.
“I saw that and said to myself, ‘Now that’s the way to respond,’” Madsen said.
Tanner Nieslanik finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs, Johnny Nieslanik drove in three runs and scored three times in his 2-for-2 performance, and Omar Olivas and Cam Doherty added 2-for-3 outings.
Moffat County again jumped on top early in the second game. Trevor Kroese reached on an outfield error and, two batters later, came home on an RBI single from Bubba Ivers which gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
Roaring Fork responded again, though, when Tanner Nieslanik knotted the game when he scored on a passed ball by Brett Lloyd. And in the second, Dakotah Grett gave the Rams the lead for good when he reached first on a bunt single, stole second base, moved to third on a groundout by Cam Doherty and scored on a wild pitch by Bulldogs starter Jake Bingham.
Meanwhile, Rams starter Omar Olivas was solid. He scattered five hits in seven innings walking one with two strikeouts. His defense was solid behind him, with the Rams’ only error of the game coming in the seventh inning when they already held a six-run lead.
“We had a team meeting a couple of weeks ago,” said Olivas, referencing the short time ago when the Rams were struggling. “The coaches gave us a pep talk about how we were playing, and that really got our attention. We’ve come together since then.”
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