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Weather and all, baseball season starts up

The problem facing area prep baseball teams prior to the start of the 2003 season is more basic than pitching, hitting or having enough players on the roster.

It’s having enough practice days outdoors to prepare for the season.

Wet weather has limited field practice to “a handful of days,” according to area coaches, forcing many of the five high school teams inside campus gymnasiums for alternative drills.



Roaring Fork, Basalt and Grand Valley have opted for mid-March starts to help combat the weather.

The Bears will try to get its season underway at 3 p.m. Friday against Alameda at Cooper Field, located on the Garfield County Fairgrounds.



Meanwhile, Glenwood Springs’ opener against Faith Christian on Saturday has been canceled due to poor field conditions. The game will not be rescheduled, according to first-year coach Mike Laster.

Baseball: see page A14

Weather permitting, Glenwood will start the year at Montrose on March 15 and will not have a home game at Glenwood Springs Middle School until April 4 against nonleague opponent Roaring Fork.

Rifle

Four returning starters from last year’s 19-4 Class 4A state quarterfinalist team have given the Bears a Top 10 spot in both the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post preseason polls.

But Bear head coach Troy Phillips isn’t putting much stock in the team’s ranking.

“You can’t tell anything until you start playing,” he said. “Right now everyone’s guessing.”

With Jason Enewold returning for his senior year, pitching is not a guess at Rifle.

One of three returning all-leaguers to the Bears’ lineup, Enewold posted a 7-1 record last year. The senior, who will play third base on non-pitching dates, is also a force at the plate.

Last year, Enewold complied a .343 batting average with 18 RBIs and 12 extra-base hits.

Scott Van Slyke is “one of the best catchers on the Western Slope,” said Phillips. Defensively, the senior had only four passed balls in 148 innings while hitting .383 with 19 RBIs.

Infielder Owen Madison, another returning all-league choice, has fully recovered from last fall’s football injury and will start at second base. The senior brings a potent bat to the lineup.

In 2002, as a junior, Madison had team highs in batting average (.457) and hits (37) and was among the leaders in three other offensive categories.

Madison will also see action on the mound this season after having success in summer ball last year.

Senior Josh May will split his time between the outfield, third base and as a pitcher, depending on the team’s needs.

Phillips said hitting and speed are strengths, but the pitching, except for Enewold “has a lot of inexperience.”

The coach sees four teams, including the Bears, involved in the chase for the league title.

Favorites, Phillips said, are Moffat County, Delta and Palisade.

Glenwood Springs

In his first year as head coach, Laster’s Demons have already been beset with injuries.

Last year’s starting catcher Brian Wren is unable to play due to a back injury and Andrew Blake, slotted as one of the team’s starting pitchers, is in doubt after suffering a hand injury at last week’s district basketball tournament.

Lister said Blake’s hand is “too swollen for X-rays,” and will be examined early next week.

“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it’s not broken,” said Lister. “But its not a good sign.”

Blake’s injury is one of a list of unknowns facing the new coach as Glenwood prepares for the 2003 season.

The coach said 25 players are out for the squad, 10 of whom have been slotted for the varsity. The remaining 15 could be shuttled between the varsity and JV teams, depending on how they develop throughout the season.

All-league player Tiernan Conway will be expected to carry the pitching load if Blake can’t return to action. Others slated for mound duties include senior Justin Jerome, junior Ryan Millyard and sophomores John Faris and Paul Huttenhower.

Rifle High transfer Ryan Lloyd along with Faris will get long looks at catcher. Brock Milhorn, another transfer student will be one of the Demons’ outfielders.

Senior Seth Smith, who saw considerable action late last season gets the nod at second base, he will be joined in the middle infield by Jerome.

Roaring Fork

The Rams’ roster consists mostly of underclassmen, according to coach Eric Nieslanik.

Only three of the 25 players out for baseball are seniors, but Roaring Fork does have an abundance of athletic talent available, despite its youth.

Leadership will come from senior lettermen Quinn Garvik, Ben Wright and Chad Minor.

Garvik, the Rams’ catcher, will handle a crop of junior pitchers which include Jake Boyle, Dan Markoya and Taylor Arbaney, a transfer from Rifle.

Wright and Minor will start in the outfield. Boyle and Markoya will take turns in the middle infield when not pitching.

Other key players for Roaring Fork include Max Green, Misael Fernandez and Tommy Joiner.

Basalt

New coach Jason Landa inherits a group of players, “that are coming together,” after taking its lumps while developing the past few years.

“We’re working hard on conditioning to turn our players into athletes, and we’re starting to get results,” said Landa of the training methods he’s brought in.

The lack of practice days has not given Landa much time for evaluation, “so positions are still open,” he said.

Juniors A.J. Hobbs, Brian Brown and Zack Hayes, along with sophomore Connor Meyer, are getting looks as pitchers. All four will also see time in the field during the year.

Jake Rankin will be the Longhorns No. 1 catcher. The junior could also be used an infielder. Others considered for key roles include juniors Colton Hinch and Dillon Johnson, plus freshmen Nick Harris, Derrick Duroux and Jimmy Corrigan.

Grand Valley

The perennial Class 2A, Western Slope powerhouse Cardinals face a new challenge this year.

With the addition of preseason state-ranked Paonia and Rangely, along with Meeker dropping down from 3A, this year’s race will be tougher, according to Grand Valley coach Jeff Bradley.

“Paonia’s got four really strong arms and I see them in the running for the state title again,” Bradley said. “Rangely’s got two pretty solid players, and Meeker’s got some hitting.”

But Grand Valley’s still a major player in the revamped WSL.

The Cardinals are loaded with athletic talent, along with seven returning lettermen from last year’s league-champion club.

The nucleus includes seniors Tim Arnold, Jason Conklin, Sam Hughes, Sean Carlson and Christian Tegtmeier.

Arnold, Tegtmeier, Carlson and junior Colin Lauman will pitch. Juniors Brian Evers, Sean Potter and Tegtmeier will share the catching duties.

Hughes, Evers, and junior Chris Brundle get the nod as the Cardinals’ starting outfield. Arnold, Conklin, Carlson and Jeremy Quick, a junior are slated as infielders.


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