RHS Panthers end baseball season for Cowboys

A Panther slides home safe in a doubleheader played last week in Rangely, where each team won a game, allowing the Panthers to advance to the district tournament this Saturday in Grand Junction.

The Meeker baseball team played its final home game on the road last week. Because of the weather, Meeker’s baseball diamond was never dry enough to play on this season, so the Cowboys had to play their scheduled home games against Paonia in Rifle and their final home game against the Panthers in Rangely.
“It was tough on the boys to go through the whole season without a home game,” Meeker head coach Joel Matrisciano said.
The final doubleheader for the Cowboys had playoff implications for both teams. Meeker had to win both games, then hope Paonia, the only other league team, would beat the Panthers twice. The Panthers only had to beat the Cowboys once in order to advance to the district playoffs, this Saturday in Grand Junction.
The Panthers took an early lead in the first game but the Cowboys would not be denied.
“Rangely came out and scored five runs in the first inning but we scored six in the bottom of the first,” Matrisciano said. Matrisciano’s youngest son Tanner brought in three runs with a double.
Both teams scored three runs in the second inning and the Cowboys added another one in the third. The Panthers tied the game at 10 with two runs in the top of the sixth but the Cowboys won the game with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Meeker sophomore Alex Smith was the winning pitcher and both coaches commented on his throwing.
“That Smith kid pitched an exceptional game,” Rangely head coach Paul Fortunato said.
“Alex threw lights out,” Matrisciano said. “He had his best game yet, he was the catalyst to get things going and was perfect at the plate. It’s encouraging to see a younger kid come through like that.”
The Cowboys were not as fortunate in the second game, as Rangely’s ace Kody Denny took the mound and control of the game early, leading his team to a 20-6 victory.
It was the final game of their high school careers for seniors Trevor Matrisciano, Cole Steiner and Victor and Jose Villalpando.
“We’ll miss their leadership tremendously and I’ll miss them as young men as well,” Matrisciano said of his seniors.
The Panthers lost both games to Paonia  and will play Dolores in the first round of the district tournament this Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Canyon View fields in Grand Junction.
“We dropped three of our last four games and I felt we underachieved, never getting the ball rolling offensively,” Fortunato said. “We are going to put our mistakes in our back pocket and try to build on things we did right. It doesn’t count until the playoffs.”