Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 MCBL Champions

Championship highlights:

• After winning the regular-season title in 2009, 2010 marks the first MCBL Championship in the ballclub’s six-yaer history.

• The Grizzlies scored their second run in the seventh inning Saturday to take a 2-1 lead. Prior to the championship series, the Grizzlies were 1-18 when tied or trailing entering the seventh inning. During the series they were 2-0.

• Thursday’s Game One victory was the Grizzlies’ first walk-off win of the season.

• The Grizzlies won back-to-back games to sweep the Foxes in the championship. After starting the season 17-5, winning as many as five games in a row, the Grizzlies hadn’t won consecutive games since July 1 and 2.

• Jose Jauregui drove in both runs in Game Two, the winning run coming from Andy Athans.

• Mike Lessig threw a complete game in Game Two, the first nine-inning complete game of the season for a Cheyenne pitcher. On the season, he was 3-0 against the Foxes, allowing five earned runs in 39 innings pitched.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Twelfth inning magic: Grizzlies walk-off with win over Foxes in Game One of MCBL championship

All season long, Grizzlies’ head coach Aaron Holley has been telling his team to battle.

Thursday night in Cheyenne, in Game One of the MCBL championship against the Fort Collins Foxes, Grizzlies’ center fielder Kyle Dodge took Holley’s message to heart with a 12th-inning, walk-off single to give Cheyenne the upper hand in the best-of-three series.

“I got two strikes and knew, in the bottom of the 12th with two outs and the winning run in scoring position I had to put it in play,” Dodge said. “I watched one go by right down the middle, and then I fouled the second one off. I had a feeling that I was gonna make pretty solid contact with the next fastball he threw me.”

With two strikes and two outs in the 12th inning, Dodge battled, lining a single up the middle, allowing third baseman Ryan Javech to score the winning run from second.

Grizzlies 5, Foxes 4.

“Kyle Dodge put a good swing on a good pitch,” Holley said. “The pitcher left it up and Kyle made him pay for it. He was just battling with two strikes. “

Battle: success. Ship: sunk.

Sweet, sweet victory.

It was Cheyenne’s first walk-off win of the season, and just its second win after trailing entering the seventh inning.

“It’s an easy walk to first base when you get a hit like that,” Dodge said. “You’re just watching the play and hoping they score.”

Javech, who reached on a one-out walk and advanced to second on a Rory Kolo groundout, had no trouble beating the throw of Foxes’ center fielder Cody Bishop.

As the game progressed, the sounds of the nearby concert at the Cheyenne Frontier Days could be heard at the park. But as Dodge’s bat connected with the 1-2 pitch from Travis Wilcox, the live music was diffused as the Grizzlies celebrated to the tune of Tunak Tunak Tun, an Indian tribal dance song that has turned into the ballclub’s rally and theme song after teammates heard it at a dance club.

Boston plays Tessie after each Red Sox win; The Grizzlies now play Tunak Tunak Tun.

As the music blared, the excitement in the city went from Dierks Bentley’s guitar a half-mile north to the right-field grass of Pioneer Park, where teammates chased down and dog piled Dodge, letting out three week’s worth of bottled up frustration.
“It’s so huge,” said K.C. Judge, who paced Cheyenne with four hits and two RBI. “We just played a 12-inning game. We wore them out a little bit. We got to their bullpen. To win in 12, that takes the wind out of their sails. I like our chances on Saturday.”

“It’s colossal,” second baseman Mike Wido added. “It’s nice to send Fort Collins home after 12 innings. Hopefully we can win it at their place now and dog pile at their stadium.”

With the win, the momentum is now on the side of Cheyenne, while Fort Collins’ backs are up against the wall.

Fort Collins came in as the clear favorites, but it’s do or die time for the Foxes, while the Grizzlies need to win just one of two games in Fort Collins to claim their first ever MCBL championship.

“When you win close games like that against good teams, it gives you confidence,” Holley said. “We have the momentum, even with them being at home.”

The fact that the Grizzlies have a better road record than at home, and have played particularly well (3-3) in Fort Collins, means they are heading into the rest of the series in the driver’s seat.

“All the pressure’s on them,” closer Jack Winters said. “They have to win. We can go out loose. After an extra-inning loss like this, they have to be deflated. I know we would be. But we’re that much higher off the win right now going into Saturday.”

It was just a matter of time before the Grizzlies pushed another run across.

Cheyenne had at least one runner in scoring position in 10 of the 12 innings, including each of the extra innings, but was unable to score until the last one.

Four hours prior to the joyful celebration, opening-day starter Josh Boyer took the mound and pitched six solid innings. While he worked himself into trouble—Fort Collins had at least one runner in scoring position in four of his six innings—Boyer buckled down under pressure. He finished with eight strikeouts, allowing just one earned run on seven hits and two walks.

The Grizzlies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the third inning when Wido reached on a fielder’s choice and came around to score on Judge’s double to right-center. The Grizzlies are now 18-3 on the season when scoring first.

“I felt like with whatever swing I took I was going to square the ball somewhere,” Judge said. “I was really confident and comfortable with everything.”

The Foxes answered back, though, with three runs in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. Just one of the runs was earned, however, as miscommunication in the outfield led to two unearned runs. First baseman Edder Morales hit what seemed to be an easy flyout to right fielder Andy Athans. However, Dodge came sprinting over, colliding with Athans and allowing Morales to reach.

The Grizzlies got one run back in the fifth when Jose Jauregui led off with a single to the left side. He was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wido, stole third and came home on Judge’s one-out single up the middle.

Ryan Schwenn relieved Boyer with two near-perfect innings, allowing a single, while striking out one and receiving help in the seventh with a nice double play by Wido.

“I was just trying to keep it close any way possible,” Schwenn said. “I was able to throw strikes and get outs and got a huge double play from Wido after the leadoff single.”

Schwenn threw 16 of 19 pitches for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to all six hitters he faced.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Grizzlies took advantage of two defensive errors by the Foxes to add two runs and take a 4-3 lead.

With one out, Wido beat out a slow roller to get the rally started. Judge grounded to shortstop, but Allen’s throw was high, sailing out of play and allowing both runners to advance. With runners on second and third and one out, the Foxes intentionally walked catcher Jefre Johnson to load the bases. But a groundball by Mike Domenick, that possibly could have been turned into a double play, went under second baseman Charles Bradley’s glove and into right field, bringing home both runs. Bradley had been named Fort Collins’ defensive player of the year earlier in the week.

Just three outs away from a victory, the Grizzlies brought in Winters, trying to earn his seventh save of the season.

Winters got into trouble right away, however, allowing a leadoff double down the right-field line to left fielder Brenton Kopecek. Consecutive singles allowed Kopecek to score and knot the score up at 4-4. Winters would retire the next three batters, though, including two punch outs.

“When I came out in the ninth, I felt like I was flat for some reason,” Winters said. “After those three hits in a row, I bore down and focused on what I needed to do, which was to throw to the glove, rather than by the hitter. It started to work out from there. There was no way I was going to let the loss fall on my shoulders. I did everything to keep it tight.”

He pitched three additional innings, not allowing a single hit and recording the win.

Thursday closed out the 2010 home slate for the Grizzlies, and was just the third ever playoff game played in Cheyenne.

Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) of the series will be played in Fort Collins at the Fox Den. Game 2 is set for Saturday at 6:15 p.m. If Cheyenne needs a third game, it will be at 6:15 on Sunday night.

“We fully expect to go out and win next game,” Holley said. “I told the team, ‘We’re not done. Let’s go out and win it Saturday.’ We play well at their park. It should be a good game, probably just like this. It’ll come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”

To see the video of Kyle Dodge's walk-off, click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Grizzlies close out regular season, prepare for MCBL championship

FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Grizzlies never got going Sunday evening, falling to the Fort Collins Foxes 14-0 at The Fox Den in the 2010 regular-season finale.

Starting pitcher Howard Heinrich pitched through a miserable first inning, allowing six runs on four hits, but was able to limit the Foxes to one walk and zero hits and zero runs over the next four innings.

The Grizzlies got two runners on base in the first inning—a Taylor Fallon walk and Ryan Schwenn single—but it would turn out to be one of their best scoring chances of the night.

Fallon’s single in the eighth inning would be their only other hit of the night, getting two-hit by three Foxes pitchers.

With the loss, the Grizzlies ended their regular season with a record of 20-18, third place in the MCBL standings. Due to Greeley’s decision to compete in the NBC World Series next week, Cheyenne and Fort Collins will meet in a best-of-three championship series beginning Thursday.

Cheyenne has dropped 13 of its last 16 games dating back to July 4, but the last two games have been with non-traditional lineups.

“We’ve played these guys 12 times now,” head coach Aaron Holley said. “We kind of know what they’re gonna throw at us and what to expect. Obviously, these last two games haven’t really been a testament to what’s gonna happen here in this series.”

Even with the slump, Holley knows that his team is within two wins of meeting their ultimate goal of winning their first MCBL championship.

“The way we’re looking at it is all the records get erased,” Holley said. “It’s a three-game series; if you win two of them, you go home champions, regardless of regular-season records or anything in the past.”

The Grizzlies will have the next three days off, but will still spend time each day preparing for the final series.

“We’ll work out the next three days as a team to make sure we’re getting our work in,” Holley said. “I told the guys that this is similar to school ball. You’ve got three days off before you play again, so we have to go back, prepare the way they know how to prepare when they’re not playing every day, which might make them a little more comfortable going into the series, I think.

Game 1 of the championship is set for Thursday in Cheyenne at 6:30 p.m. It will be fans’ last chance to see the Grizzlies play this season at Pioneer Park.

Games 2 and 3, if necessary, will be played in Fort Collins at 6:15 p.m., where Cheyenne is 3-3 on the season. The Grizzlies are 5-7 overall against the Foxes.

“We’ve played them well, especially here,” Holley said. “We’re focused on getting that first win. If we can get that one at home, we come to Fort Collins with two chances to close it out.

“These last two games have kind of taken off all the pressure, I think. We’re planning on just going out there and leaving it all out there on the field. If we do that, we should come back to Cheyenne as champions.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grizzlies have fun, gain confidence despite loss

Cheyenne fell to the first-place Foxes 3-2 at Pioneer Park on Saturday night, but the real story is not the loss itself, but the positive effect of it.

Head coach Aaron Holley made a gamble Saturday night. He took a chance and threw in all of his chips.
The payout is yet to be determined, but the risk could be enough to right the ship and turn around the Grizzlies’ season just in time for the MCBL championship.

Holley started a lineup that was unconventional at best. It featured four first-time starters, including starting pitcher Nick Colbert. On the season, the eight position players had a combined 11 starts at their position Saturday night. Several players were playing positions they hadn’t played all season, including catcher Jose Gonzalez playing third base and shortstop Jose Jauregui calling the game from behind the plate.

“(Friday night), I turned to Luke (Wetmore) and we decided we were going to let everyone else play,” Holley said. “I knew this game didn’t mean anything in terms of the standings or anything like that, so we let guys play.”

At times, it looked as if Holley was shaking a Magic Eight Ball to determine who would play where next.

Infielders played outfield and vice versa.

Jauregui ended up playing all nine positions, including coming in to pitch in the ninth inning in a one-run game.

“We had joked around about it,” Holley said. “He’s technically our utility guy; he plays short for us but plays outfield at his school. I knew he could play second base and a bunch of positions. I had never seen it before, and figured this would be the game to do it.”

In the bottom of the ninth, trailing by one run and needing a rally, Holley sent up three players who hadn’t swung the bat once all season.

It gets weirder, though.

During batting practice, Jack Winters could be seen wearing a cowboy hat. Mike Lessig was wearing the batboy’s jersey, snuggly fitting four sizes too small.

Two players (Rory Kolo and Kevin Logan) spent the game in the press box calling the action as the PA announcers and K.C. Judge danced and ran the bases in between innings dressed in the Grizzwald suit, Cheyenne’s mascot.

Yet, in the midst of the three-ring circus, the Grizzlies came out and played—and played well, I might add.

“Hopefully it was an eye opener, especially to the guys who play all the time, that if you go out there, let it all go and just play your game, there can be positive results,” Holley said.

Colbert, who had pitched less than seven innings all season, threw seven innings of six-hit baseball. If not for an error on the first batter of the game that led to three unearned runs, he would have thrown a shutout, and would have been credited with the win.

“Unbelievable,” Holley said of Colbert’s performance. “Probably one of the best pitching performances out of a starter we’ve had this year. It was definitely the least amount of pitches through seven. I hope that shows to our pitchers that if you throw strikes and minimize the walks, good things will happen.”

Colbert needed just 82 pitches to get through the seven innings.

“I was having fun and was able to do really well,” Colbert said. “I was throwing strikes, seeing what I could do and how long I could go. My fastball was working enough to get outs.”

Fun is the key word.

Other players also used that word to describe Saturday’s game.

“We played a great game (Saturday night),” said Brett Fanning, who made an unexpected season debut in the ninth inning. “It kind of eases the tension a little bit, and I think it will help build chemistry going into the championship. We all had a lot of fun out there.”

“We’re just trying to have fun,” Jauregui added. “Lately we’ve been losing, so it was good to have a night like this where we could just let loose. We know we’re in the championship, so we’re just trying to gain some confidence. We play our best games when we’re not playing under pressure, and I think you saw that (Saturday night).”

Saturday came with a loss, but during the postgame huddle in right field—the same one that has been glum, melancholy and has lasted as long as 13 minutes during the Grizzlies’ three-week slump—smiles could be seen.

There was laughter and applause. As the players jogged back to the dugout, there was joking and excitement.

There was a sense of confidence and optimism within the team that hasn’t been seen since its slide began during the Fourth of July weekend.

The fact is, Cheyenne threw out a lineup that consisted of backups and experiments while Fort Collins stuck with its starters. The end result was a one-run game, allowing Cheyenne to realize they can compete.

“Fort Collins was still trying, and besides the three unearned runs in the first inning, they couldn’t get anything off of us,” Holley said. “I think the guys had fun, and a game like this can build confidence going into the championship series.”

The Grizzlies and Foxes will meet again Sunday to close out the regular season before beginning a best-of-3 championship series Thursday.

The Grizzlies played well enough to win Saturday, but winning wasn’t Holley’s only intention.

“The last two weeks, Luke and I have been racking our brains around how to get out of this slump,” Holley said. “It got to a point where, at some point, you have to have fun doing it—I don’t want to say have fun losing, because I don’t think losing is ever fun—but, I think what we were trying to accomplish (Saturday night) wasn’t necessarily to win. We were still going to go out there and play hard, get guys playing time and hopefully we were going to be able to compete, which we did.

“We’ve gone out there trying to throw our best lineup, throw our best pitchers, and nothing has been working. You have conversations with individuals, conversations with the team . . . eventually you have to try something different.”

If winning was all that mattered Saturday, Holley would have brought in closer Jack Winters to pitch the ninth instead of a guy who hasn’t thrown off a mound since middle school. He wouldn’t have brought up two pitchers (Josh Boyer and Winters) and an injured Fanning to rally in the bottom of the ninth, either.

Fanning has been fighting an injury that has kept him off the field the entire season. He still hasn’t been cleared to swing, so his intention when going up to the plate with two outs and down a run in the bottom of the ninth was to bunt . . . even with two strikes.

“I’m not able to swing yet,” Fanning said. “It didn’t matter if it was 0-2 or 3-0, I knew I was bunting. That was the first time I had seen live pitching in months. It was kind of nerve-racking, but it was good to be back playing in Cheyenne. Just to be back out there made me feel like I was part of the team. It meant a lot.”

Sure, a win would have been nice, but Holley was looking at the bigger picture than just the final score.

“These summers are long, especially when you play the same team 12 times,” Holley said. “You have to try to find a way to break up the monotony.”

The starters got rest, the reserves got playing time, the Foxes didn’t get another chance to see Cheyenne’s team before the championship series and, most importantly, the Grizzlies gained momentum, even with the loss.

“We’re in good shape,” Colbert said. “It’s just a matter of getting in our groove, and I think (Saturday night) helped us find that groove.”

Perhaps a little fun was all the Grizzlies needed to get them off their slide.

“Hopefully the guys still want to be here,” Holley said. “Hopefully they realize they can still win a championship, and hopefully we can go out there and do it.”

The Grizzlies played loose and relaxed, and had fun while doing it. Will Saturday’s excitement carry over for the remainder of the season?

Only time will tell, but my Magic Eight Ball says, “Signs point to yes.”

Other highlights:

• Colbert’s final line: 7 innings pitches, six hits, five strikeouts, four walks and no earned runs.
• Joe Luft pitched a 1-2-3 eighth in relief.
• Jauregui played all nine positions, saying that catcher and pitcher were his favorite.

“Coach mentioned it to me before the game but I didn’t believe him,” he said. “I was a little nervous, but I threw my breaking ball quite a bit and tried to throw strikes.”

Jauregui let up a one-out single, but struck out the side, throwing 12 of 16 pitches for strikes.

“I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “I was having fun out there, so it resulted in a good performance.”

As for catching: “I liked catching because it’s a tough position to play. Even though I made a couple errors (two passed balls) back there, I had fun and was just trying not to look bad.”
• The starting lineup was unique: Taylor Fallon (SS), Ryan Schwenn (RF), James McCaleb (1B), Jose Jauregui (C), Jose Gonzalez (3B), Ryan Eustice (2B), Tyler Stevenson (CF), Stephon Parker (DH) and Kyle Green (LF).
• Fallon, Schwenn, Jauregui, Gonzalez, Eustice and Stevenson recorded hits, including two hit-games for Fallon and Eustice. Eustice also drove in a run in the sixth inning.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Offense shines, pitching falters in Laramie

LARAMIE, Wyo.—Cheyenne’s pitching never found the zone Thursday night, falling to the Laramie Colts 13-7 at Cowboy Field in Laramie.

The good news: For the second consecutive game, the Grizzlies (20-15) put on a solid offensive performance, scoring seven runs on 13 hits. The Grizzlies recorded four extra-base hits and struck out just three times. On Monday night at Laramie, Cheyenne put up 11 runs on 18 hits after averaging less than three runs per game for the two and a half weeks prior.

The bad news: Uncharacteristically, the pitching faltered, allowing 13 runs on 12 hits, and most alarming, 11 walks. Bryce Reid, who is tied for the team lead with five wins, didn’t make it out of the third inning, Thursday.

Reid allowed just one earned run, but the free passes haunted him.

In the third inning, trailing 2-1, Kevin Armijo hit a groundball to second baseman Ryan Eustice. The would-be third out rolled under Eustice’s glove, though, extending the inning.

From there, a walk, two singles, two walks and another single brought in four more runs and ended Reid’s night.

Taylor Fallon relieved Reid, getting the final out of the third to leave the bases loaded, but got into trouble in the fourth, walking the first three batters before recording the first out of the inning.

Through the first four innings, the Grizzlies walked 10 batters.

Chad Correa pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and a home run, but settled down after the runs came in to retire the final five batters he faced, including a 1-2-3 sixth that needed just five pitches.
Ryan Schwenn pitched a 1-2-3 seventh before Howard Heinrich made a relief appearance, allowing one run.

Even with scoreless sixth and seventh innings, the Grizzlies’ pitching staff threw just 53 percent of its pitches for strikes.

On offense, a balanced attack hinted toward the slump being over. Eight different players collected hits, with seven scoring.

Mike Lessig paced the team with three singles and an RBI, while Jose Jauregui, Mike Wido and Mike Domenick also had multi-hit games. Wido and Kevin Logan each had two RBI and Domenick hit a fifth-inning triple to deep left-center.

The defensive highlights were the arms of outfielders Logan and Lessig. In the second inning, Logan gunned down Nick Andrews, who was trying to score on a base hit from second. The next inning, with a runner on third and no outs, Nate Smith hit a flyball to Lessig in right. Matt Henriksen, who had tripled, tried tagging up, but a great throw, in addition to nice positioning by catcher Mike Henrichs to block the plate, completed the double play.

Thursday’s loss was the Grizzlies’ first in Laramie of the season. They complete their three-game road trip at Laramie Friday night at 6:35 p.m. before returning home for their final regular-season game at Pioneer Park Saturday.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unlucky Heinrich dealt another loss

Howard Heinrich is the unluckiest pitcher in Wyoming.

Sunday, he pitched eight innings, allowing just three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven against the visiting Laramie Colts, but was dealt his third consecutive loss, 3-1.

“He’s pitched great,” head coach Aaron Holley said afterward. “You can’t ask any more than eight innings, three runs . . . he’s given us huge chances to win games and we can’t give him any support offensively. It’s disheartening.”

Like his past three starts, little run support led to another loss for the lefty.

Over his past four starts dating back to June 27, Heinrich has allowed just 13 earned runs, an average of 3.25 runs per start. While the numbers are solid, the statistic is a little misleading with Heinrich’s outings even stronger than the book shows.

Sunday, Heinrich worked out of a second-inning jam by forcing a double play with the bases loaded. First baseman Chris Voelker hit a comebacker at Heinrich, who threw home to get the force. Catcher Mike Henrichs then threw to first to end the threat.

“I like to think that when my back’s up against the wall, when a big play is made like that, it’s usually smooth sailing from there,” Heinrich said. “I’ve got a nag for getting myself in jams, but some way, I always seem to get myself out of them.”

The double play was the start of 14 consecutive outs for Heinrich, including four consecutive 1-2-3 innings.

“The momentum turned and I was able to continue to have success,” he said.

While Heinrich has been an overachiever on the mound, the Grizzlies’ lackluster offense has provided little support for him during his most recent outings. Cheyenne hasn’t scored in his last three outings while Heinrich was still in the game, last providing support on June 27 when they scored a mere two runs.

“I feel for Howard and the pitchers, but to give them credit, they continue to come out here and perform,” Holley said. “That’s hard sometimes to stay mentally focused. Sometimes you start pressing, thinking, ‘Man, I’ve gotta throw a complete-game shutout because we’re not getting runs offensively.’ These guys have been completely solid with keeping their focus mentally and performing out there on the bump. All the praise to them for what they’ve done.”

While Heinrich has been affected the most, the entire rotation has seen the effects of an offense that has produced less than three runs a contest over the past 11 games.

Cheyenne’s lone run came in the ninth inning when pinch hitter Andy Athans led off with a triple off the left-field wall. He scored one pitch later on a wild pitch.

Besides that, however, the offense was ineffective.

The Grizzlies were able to get runners on, but weren’t able to bring them around once on base. Ten runners reached base over the first five innings, but none scored. Overall, eight runners reached scoring position. Athans was the only one to score.

“The last couple starts it’s been the same story,” Heinrich said. “I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing.”

With the loss, Cheyenne is now six games back of the Fort Collins Foxes and a half game behind the Greeley Grays. Cheyenne has lost nine of its past 11 games heading into the final five games of the regular season, four of which are on the road.

“Every single one of those guys, as individuals, has to make a decision on whether or not they want to be here and whether they want to continue to work hard and do the things they know they have to do to win games. Or they have a decision to not do that,” Holley said. “It’s completely up to them. Luke (Wetmore) and I are going to continue to coach the way we know how. We’re gonna continue to try to encourage them and help them get better, and do everything that we know how, in our power, to allow them to be successful.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gigantic loss leads to growing gap in standings

Two weeks prior to Saturday night’s pounding from the Greeley Grays at Pioneer Park, the Cheyenne Grizzlies left their home stadium beaming from a 4-2 win over division rivals, Fort Collins.

The win featured outstanding pitching, near-perfect defense and timely hitting, and put the Grizzlies in sole possession of first place in the MCBL standings. At that time, the Grizzlies were 17-5 and were in prime shape to win back-to-back regular-season titles for the first time in franchise history.

What a difference two weeks make.

Since that win on July 2, the Grizzlies have gone 2-8 over a 10-game stretch. They have averaged just 3.0 runs per game (compared to 8.4 prior to the slump), allowed 7.4 runs a game (versus 4.2) and dropped 6.5 games in the standings, needing a small miracle to overcome the first-place Foxes.

What’s more, the Grizzlies’ poor execution, in addition to a hot streak by the Grays, has allowed Greeley to tie Cheyenne for second place in the standings.

While the standings don’t matter much at this point—with Greeley most likely optioning out of the postseason to represent the MCBL at the National Baseball Congress World Series, the playoff matchup of a best-of-3 or best-of-5 championship series between the Grizzlies and Foxes is all but guaranteed—the Grizzlies need to play their final six regular-season games with a sense of pride.

“If I had the answer (to what it will take to break out of the current slump) I’d tell you,” head coach Aaron Holley said. “At this point it comes down to playing for pride. Coming out and deciding, as individuals and as teammates, how we want to end our season. I said it in one our first interviews that summer ball can become selfish if you let it, and I think some of that has crept in a little bit.”

Save for Saturday night’s humiliation, the Grizzlies’ pitching has been on-target, for the most part, but their ever-so-reliable offense from the first month of the season hasn’t been timely, or clutch.

Saturday was the ugliest of all.

The Grizzlies fell behind 3-0 on the first three batters of the game. The score turned to 5-0 after two frames, 6-0 after three, and 8-0 when starter Josh Boyer was relieved just one out into the fourth inning—his shortest outing except for his season-debut when Holley limited all pitchers to three innings.

“Josh wasn’t feeling it (Saturday),” Holley said. “He wasn’t hitting his spots. You don’t want to pull him early but I didn’t have much of a choice. Then we started just throwing pitches right over the plate and they were taking advantage of that. Our pitching was very poor and not where it needs to be if we want to win ballgames.”

But neither was the defense—three errors, two while Boyer was pitching, resulted in six unearned runs—or the offense, whose last hit was K.C. Judge’s two-run homer in the fifth inning.

Already trailing by nine, 11-2, after four innings, the Grays tacked on 10 runs in a marathon fifth inning. The final score, 24-5, was the most lopsided loss in the organization’s six-year history.

“There’s no way we should get beat like that,” Holley said. “It’s absolutely embarrassing.”

Yet, even with the two-week slump and the blowout shellacking, the Grizzlies are still in position to win their first league championship.

It’s evident that, for the most part, the pitching has been phenomenal, and the offense can pound the ball when in the right mindset.

“The most frustrating part is not having the answers and the words to tell your players of how to get out of it or how to approach the game when you’re not playing your best,” Holley said. “I feel like a broken record sometimes, repeating myself over and over again. Maybe a loss like this will allow things to finally sync in.”

They might be out of the running for first place in the standings, but they will still compete against the Foxes for the championship.

All it will take is getting hot during that series at the end of the month.

“I don’t not think that we can turn it around,” Holley said. “We have great baseball players, and I feel like most of them care. We have to look at the situation we’ve put ourselves in and play for pride knowing that we still are competing for the goal we set out for at the beginning of the season.”

In order for that to happen, though, Cheyenne needs use these final six games as preparation and snap out of this slump.