“I felt defensively we were right on point”
It’s been tough for the Crested Butte Blue Jackets. The team has just one win all season and has suffered several thumpings at the hands of the top teams in the league.
Nevertheless, and there’s always a nevertheless, coaches Van Taylor, Mikey Weil and the players who have stuck through it all refuse to fold, no matter what the score.
“Even when we’re down a lot, we still are rallying at the end and that’s a great thing to see,” says Taylor.
The Blue Jackets just came off a brutal road trip, dropping a doubleheader to Surface Creek and then again to Olathe.
“It was a tough road,” says Taylor.
The day against Surface Creek started out sour with only eight Blue Jackets players showing up for the games. Then it got worse as Surface Creek opened the first game with two grand slams in the first inning.
“They hit the ball well and we only had eight guys so that was a long day there,” says Taylor.
The team recovered to hit the road again on Saturday, June 21 to face Olathe. While Surface Creek is one of two league powerhouses, Olathe has struggled this year and provided an opportunity for the Blue Jackets to turn their season around, at least temporarily.
While the Blue Jackets defense was spot-on, their bats remained silent as they lost both games to Olathe.
“That was disappointing,” says Taylor. “We dropped two games that we should have won. Our defense looked good but we didn’t hit the ball really well.”
The Blue Jackets returned to Tommy V Field on Monday, June 23 for another doubleheader, this time against the top team in the league, the Hotchkiss Bulldogs.
Hotchkiss brings a roster that includes numerous players who play high school ball as well as some players who play for a Mexican men’s league team in Grand Junction. Suffice it to say, Hotchkiss is stacked.
“They’re probably the team to beat,” says Taylor. “They’ve got a solid program over there.”
Hotchkiss opened the game scoring five runs in the top of the first inning, rattling off a number of base hits. Despite the hammering Blue Jackets pitcher Slater Weil took, he struck out a Hotchkiss hitter and the Blue Jackets defense turned the final out before the game could get out of control.
The Blue Jackets batters came out swinging in the bottom of the first, making contact but not punching the ball through, and remained scoreless through five innings.
The Bulldogs continued to score runs but were limited to their usual 20-run output by the work of the Blue Jackets defense.
Joe Coburn and Tommy Linehan made key plays on the right side of the infield, Tait Young and Turner Petersen knocked down potential extra base hits on the left side, catcher Joe Cummins was solid behind the plate including throwing out a Bulldog stealing third, and the Blue Jackets pick-off play worked several times throughout the game.
“I felt defensively we were right on point,” says Taylor. “Those pick-offs are huge morale boosters for sure.”
Hotchkiss was on top 11-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning and in true Blue Jackets form, they kept plugging away.
Coburn reached first on a fielder’s choice and then scored when Hunter Wright laid a bunt down the third base line and the Hotchkiss defense succumbed to a brief spate of errors.
Young led off the bottom of the sixth, cracking a double to center and stretched for third on a bad toss. The effort paid off as Young scored on a grounder.
Linehan led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a base hit and scored on a single by Cummins but the late surge was too late as the Blue Jackets eventually fell 14-3.
“We didn’t figure out the timing of the pitcher until late in the game,” says Taylor. “I’m happy with the contact but we need to start squaring up and hitting some line drives.”
Due to an injury early in the first game, the Blue Jackets were down to nine players and faced a tough pitcher in the second half of the doubleheader.
The lack of numbers and stout Bulldog pitcher proved too much for Crested Butte as they fell in the second game 20-0.
“They had a lefty with some gas and we struggled at the plate,” says Taylor. “Those nine players had to play 12 or 13 innings and that’s definitely tasking on them, physically and mentally.”
The Blue Jackets have one more week of regular season play and will close it out with home games at Tommy V Field on Monday, June 30 at 5:30 p.m. and finish the season at home against Olathe on Wednesday, July 2 at 6 p.m.
“I want them to keep on competing and keep on battling and finish the season strong, just like they do in every game,” says Taylor.