Cowboys play ‘must win’ game

By Tiffany Jehorek
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | The Cowboys were in a must win situation due to the RPI ranking system on Thursday, May 3 as they faced off against the Roaring Fork Rams. The game originally scheduled to be hosted by Meeker had to be moved to Rifle due to an unplayable field from the recent storms. It was a battle from the beginning with the Cowboys playing both sides of the ball well, executing and prevailing with a score of 12-4, keeping the team alive for the regional seeding.
Cowboy coach Brian Merrifield started junior Tristan Wille, calling his performance “stellar.” This was Wille’s first varsity start and he pitched three innings giving up four runs, two earned. The pitching lineup continued with Garrett Frantz throwing two innings, giving up zero runs and picking up the win. Logan Hughes finished up the game and threw two innings, gave up zero runs and earned the save.
The previous matchup on March 15 between the Cowboys and Rams ended with the Rams walking away with a 10-0 win. Merrifield had a defensive strategy for this game and it paid off.
“Tristan stepped into a tough spot and showed us he can hang, Merrifield said.  Having a bench with depth allowed for Frantz and Hughes to take over with catcher Luis Villalpando and effectively “shut the door on the Rams”
Offensive pressure put on the Rams led to 12 runs. During the March 15 game they were up against a pitcher who threw five perfect innings, but they were prepared and ready for the challenge on Thursday. Trapper Merrifield, Hughes and Frantz were all three for four at the bat. Merrifield picked up a stolen base, his 28th of the season.  Other at bats earning runs included Villalpando who was two for four and Ryan Phelan who was two for two. Doak Mantle, Cooper Meszaros, Uri Goedert and Jacob Phelan all hit one each with Hughes, Villalpando, and Mantle driving in two runs each.
Cowboys followed up the win on Thursday with two disappointing losses on Monday, May 7 to Hotchkiss. It was a perfect day for baseball in Meeker, the weather cooperated, but the Cowboys could not overcome the defensive errors. Merrifield said “He loves watching these guys play,” and has enjoyed every second he has gotten to spend with “his group of seniors” since T-ball. Merrifield is the father to one of the seniors on the team and has dedicated years of his life to coaching these boys. He says he has thrown a million pitches and would throw them a million more. He considers himself “blessed” to spend so much time with them.
Hotchkiss bested Meeker Monday 11-1 and 9-0. Game one opened with Hughes followed by Goedert, Wille and Frantz all throwing to Villalpando. Defensive errors against a team like Hotchkiss are unaffordable.“They made us pay,” Merrifield said. Offensively the ball was hit hard, it just happened to be directly at a Bulldog each and every time.
Trapper Merrifield started on the mound for game two, with Phelan, Cole Rogers and Josh Murphy all pitching to Villalpando.
“It was just one of those days where they hit the ball where we weren’t and we hit at them,” said Merrifield.
Rangely travels to Meeker Thursday, May 10 at 4 p.m. for district play at Paintbrush Park. This is a must win game for the Cowboys in order to play Paonia, the second seed, in the district tournament. Districts will be hosted by Olathe High School on Saturday, May 12. The district tournament begins at 10 a.m. with game one between No. 1 vs. No. 4/5, game two at 12 p.m. between No. 2 vs No. 3/6, and the title game at 2 p.m. The state tournament is in Pueblo, Colo., May 19.