“It’s the first time we’ve seen a ground ball in the dirt, a fly ball in the air and a live pitcher with a ball,” second-year coach Mike Birawer said. “Everything has been out of a machine.”
Poor field conditions in Ridgway confined the Demons’ early season practice routine to the elementary school gymnasium. In fact, the game against Montrose was to be played in Ridgway but was moved because of standing water from the winter snow thaw.
At any rate, the Demons battled on Wednesday, falling 10-3 but not without a few highlights. Seniors J.T. Archibeque and Robert Warren each hit a home run at the fenceless field at Columbine Middle School, and sophomore Jake Green added a triple.
“The veterans handled this game pretty good,” Birawer added.
Archibeque, Warren and Green are some of the top players who have returned from last year’s team, which was the first squad to be fielded in a couple years.
Birawer is hoping the offensive surge from those three players becomes contagious, but getting outside and away from a pitching machine will be the key.
“The big difference is the machine puts [the ball] belt high and down the middle,” Birawer said. “It’s not like a real guy throwing it down there and with a curve ball or anything going on. There’s a big difference.”
Defensively, Ridgway held its own as well. Jimmy Wesseling started on the mound before being relieved by Warren. Green also threw in relief. “The pitching was the first time we’d been on the mound,” Birawer said. “We started off slow walking people, and when you start doing that, you’re in trouble.”
The 10 runs allowed was the smallest number of runs given up in any game last year.
“All in all, I’m pleased with our defense without having been playing on the field before,” said Birawer, whose junior varsity team played three innings after the varsity game and was behind 10-0 before the game was called because of darkness.
Ridgway will return to action on Tuesday, April 8 for a doubleheader at Nucla. Ridgway and Nucla played four times last season with the Mustangs prevailing each time – 31-4 and 11-1 at Nucla and then 15-6 and 24-3 in Ridgway.
The Demons’ home opener will be Saturday, April 19 against Nucla, which will start a string of three dates in a row at home – Dolores (April 22) and Dove Creek (April 26).