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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grizzlies drop another heartbreaker to Foxes

Jefre Johnson came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night with the chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat. He had, however, drove in and scored the only run of the game for the Grizzlies.

But Johnson, who had homered in his second at-bat of the game, was unable to provide the second spark, striking out to end the game as the Grizzlies (19-11) fell to the Fort Collins Foxes (24-7) 4-1 at Pioneer Park.

“I changed my approach at the plate that last at-bat,” Johnson said. “I was gonna go after a fastball, thinking they might have changed their approach to me. It didn’t happen; you chase a bad pitch and then you start pressing a little bit. You chase another and now you’re down two strikes and when it happens again, that’s the ballgame.”

With two outs, Jose Jauregui and K.C. Judge recorded back-to-back singles to pose a possible threat to Foxes’ closer Seth Blevins.

But the inability to score the runners was the story of the game, and the offense in general over the past week and a half.

Cheyenne isn’t having trouble hitting—they attacked Foxes’ pitchers with 10 hits Thursday, including three extra base hits—but instead finding timely hits to produce runs.

“It’s tough, but it’s really been the story of the last, probably 10 games for us,” head coach Aaron Holley said. “Just offensively we can’t get anything going. We still are getting hits, but it’s not about how you hit or if you hit but when you hit.”

In the first inning, Cheyenne loaded the bases but came away empty. In the second inning, it was much of the same, having runners on first and second with none out and second and third with one out, but again, not able to put a run on the board.

“We’re not getting those two-out hits like we did early in the season,” Holley said. “We’re not scoring runs early in the game like we did in the beginning of the season. We constantly have the pressure on us, because they are.”

The Grizzlies left a total of 12 runners on the bases Thursday.

Much like the past couple of games, the Grizzlies received a strong performance from their starting pitcher. This time it was Bryce Reid, who had been beaten just once this year prior to Thursday.

Besides the second inning, in which Reid struggled to find his location but still came away only allowing one run, and a wild pitch in the sixth that brought across two Foxes, Reid looked sharp as usual.

“I felt great the whole time,” Reid said, “but when I don’t make my pitches they score runs; it’s as simple as that.”

Still, though, Holley said he was very impressed with Reid’s performance and that the loss was on the hitters, not him.

“We’re pitching great,” Holley said. “Our defense is making the plays. You can’t expect to get more out of our pitching staff than what we’re getting. We just can’t give them run support or a lead to give them some breathing room. We can’t play from behind every game.”

Reid threw six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out two and walking four. The big difference was a wild pitch in the fifth inning.

With the game tied at 1-1, Reid got the first two hitters of the inning to fly out, but a walk followed up by a double put two runners in scoring position and sent Holley out to the mound.

“Coach came out and talked to us and just said to get the last guy,” Reid said. “I threw a curveball, I just let it float. I short-armed it and it bounced it 10 feet in front of the plate.”

Johnson had trouble finding the ball, which had skidded back to the backstop, allowing not only Edder Morales to score from third, but also Eric Doyle to come around from second.

Fort Collins tacked on a fourth run in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach for Cheyenne.

“I think when we aren’t hitting, the guys put a little bit more pressure on themselves to get it done,” Holley said. “They just need to take the pressure of themselves and trust in their abilities. Someone needs to step up and be the hero.”

“We just need to stick with it,” Johnson added. “Baseball’s a game of failure. Certain guys hit slumps and it just so happened that multiple guys hit slumps at the same time.”

Other notes:

• Jefre Johnson had hits in his first two at-bats, the first a double down the third-base line and the second a home run over the left-field wall.

“I was looking for a pitch and he left it up enough where I could get in on it and it went out,” Johnson recalled. “It was nice to have that hit. I would have liked for it to help us more or fire us up more, though.”

• Judge, who was part of the potential ninth-inning rally, went 3-for-4 with a double, stolen base and walk.

• Reid made the catch of the year thus far when catcher Steven Keller hit a rocket comebacker straight at Reid. His reaction was perfect, though, putting his glove up just in time to make the play and end the inning. A hit would have most likely scored a run, as there were runners on first and second at the time.

“I actually caught that ball behind me; I don’t know how I got it. I looked down and didn’t realize I had it. It scared the crap out of me, but thankfully I caught it. I know if it were a couple more inches to the left or couple inches higher it would have hit me in a bad spot and I may not be talking right now.”

• Ryan Schwenn came in to work the seventh and eighth innings. After pitching a 1-2-3 seventh, Schwenn let up three hits in the eighth before being relieved with two outs, two on and one run in. Chad Correa faced one hitter, pinch hitter Cody Bishop, striking him out. Taylor Fallon worked a scoreless ninth inning.

• With the loss, the Grizzlies have now lost six of their last eight games and are now a season-high 4.5 games back of first place in the MCBL standings. While there are still nearly two weeks left in the season, Cheyenne and Fort Collins face off head to head just two more times.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grizzlies claw out win over Colts

The Cheyenne Grizzlies scored twice in the second and two more in the fifth, and Josh Boyer set down Laramie hitters over six innings to put the Grizzlies back in the win column with a 4-2 win over the visiting Laramie Colts Monday evening.

The Grizzlies jumped on Laramie starter Chris Pfau for two runs in the second inning, which ended up being his final inning of work.

With one out, first baseman Mike Domenick singled to left. Two batters later Mike Lessig, Andy Athans and Mike Wido hit back-to-back-to-back singles to bring home two runs.

“All week we’ve been struggling and Coach has been telling us to go up to the plate with a game plan,” Wido said. “I think it’s starting to come around for us. We got the win (Monday night) because everyone did their jobs.”

Athans’ base hit ricocheted off of the first-base bag and into foul territory, allowing Domenick to score from second.

In the fifth, the Grizzlies plated two more when Wido recorded his second hit of the game, followed by a double to right-center by Kevin Logan. A Jose Jauregui groundout scored Wido and a Domenick sac fly brought home Logan.

“Offensively, the difference was in the past week we’ve been getting guys on, getting them in scoring position, but not getting the big two-out hit, or scoring them on a groundout or flyout with less than two outs like we did (Monday night),” Holley said. “We haven’t been scoring runs by using outs. (Monday) we did.”

On the mound, Boyer got through the first three innings by facing just 10 hitters. In the fourth, two Laramie runners reached, but Boyer struck out Brian Patrick to escape the jam.

“I’ve thrown well against Laramie this year and I went into (Monday night’s) game with the same attitude and mentality,” Boyer said. “I was pretty pumped about this game. After getting a rough outing last time out, I was eager to get back on the mound and put up strong numbers and get a W.”

After a 1-2-3 fifth, Boyer got into trouble in the sixth by walking the first two hitters, then surrendering a double to deep left field. He got the next three hitters out, though, including strikeouts to Patrick, who struck out four time Monday (as did Matt Cervantes), to end the inning.

“I’ve gotta stop walking guys early in the inning,” he said. “That’s what cost me two runs after I felt like I had been cruising through the game.”

Josh worked six innings, allowing two runs on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts to pick up his fifth win to tie for the team high.

Ryan Schwenn pitched the seventh and got the first two outs of the eighth, but a Kevin Armijo double forced Holley to bring in closer Jack Winters for the four-out save.

“The hitter that was due up (Nick Gentili) when we brought Jack in is in our conference (Redland’s conference during the school year),” Holley said. He had no success against Jack. Jack’s kind of our safety, go-to guy.”

Winters ended up walking Gentili, but got the final out of the eighth and worked a 1-2-3 ninth, with two strikeouts, to earn his sixth save of the season. The three pitchers limited Laramie to five hits, striking out nine.

“Even though we only scored four runs, Josh pitched a great game, and Schwenn came in and shut it down and Jack came in and shut it down,” Holley said.

After a difficult week in which Cheyenne had lost five of its past six games, the Grizzlies hope Monday’s victory is momentum to fuel them for the rest of the season.

“It’s a huge win, a huge win,” Wido said. “Everyone’s working really hard, trying to push through this slump and I know we’ll break through and play like how we can.”

Cheyenne is next in action Thursday vs. first-place Fort Collins at Pioneer Park.

“Other teams have made adjustments to us since we’ve seen each other so many times, and I think we’re starting to make the adjustments,” Holley said. “I think that we’re going to contend for a championship and I think guys just needed to get this win to reaffirm that. Hopefully we can take this win and use it to roll off several more, like we have in the past.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grizzlies rally to beat Foxes

FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Cheyenne Grizzlies took advantage of two costly errors to score two runs in the eighth inning Friday night to come from behind and defeat the Fort Collins Foxes 2-1 in Fort Collins.

The Grizzlies and Foxes were locked in a pitcher’s duel, with the only run of the game being an unearned run for the Foxes in the seventh inning.

At that point, it looked as if the Grizzlies would drop their fourth consecutive game and fall three games behind the first-place Foxes. But two runs in the eighth inning resulted in the team’s first late-inning come-from-behind victory of the season.

“Things didn’t go exactly as we planned for them, but our guys fought and fought,” said assistant coach Luke Wetmore, who was filling in for head coach Aaron Holley who is serving a two-game suspension for his ejection last week.

Prior to Friday, Cheyenne was 0-8 when trailing entering the eighth inning.

Jose Jauregui singled with one out in the eighth to start the rally. Third baseman Ryan Javech followed Jauregui’s single up with a base hit of his own, but when the center fielder bobbled the ball, Jauregui moved to third.

With the throw going to third, Javech moved up to second, but an errant throw by third baseman Travis Wilcox, trying to gun down Javech at second, allowed Jauregui to score.

“Their reliever wasn’t as sharp as their starter was, so we took a little advantage of that,” Wetmore said. “And you know, they gave us an opportunity there, they really did. That tied it up for us and then a clutch two-out hit scored the go-ahead run.”

One out later, the Grizzlies rattled off three consecutive singles, the first by catcher Jefre Johnson scoring Javech to put the Grizzlies up 2-1.

Mike Lessig, who was phenomenal, retired the first two outs in the eighth, but left with a runner on second. Josh Boyer made a surprise appearance to finish the inning, striking out left fielder Anthony Guglielmi on three pitches.

“It was Josh’s pen day, so I wanted him to throw today to allow him to get work and stay sharp and I just had a gut feeling with him against the lefty hitter,” Wetmore said. “That was a huge, momentum-changing out.”

Overlooked by the late-inning comeback was the performance of Lessig. He allowed a single to the second hitter of the game, but didn’t allow another batter to reach by base hit again until the seventh inning.

“We’ve kind of struggled with the bats lately so I just wanted to go out there and limit their base runners to put us in position to win,” Lessig said. “I was getting ahead real well with fastballs and then going to off-speed, as usual. A lot of guys were swinging at first-pitch fastballs, allowing me to keep my pitch count low.”

At one point, he retired seven consecutive and 10 of 11 batters, and struck out nine in 7 2/3 innings. His only blemish was an unearned run. He allowed three hits and two walks.

“Defensively, we did everything we could to win that game,” Wetmore said. “We allowed one run between three pitchers. Lessig threw a great game, Boyer came in and got the huge out and then Jack lived on the edge there, but he challenged the hitters and wasn’t afraid to throw strikes.”

Closer Jack Winters worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, thanks to the help of a great running catch deep in center field by Kevin Logan, to record his fifth save of the season. It was one of the few times that Winters has entered with just a one-run lead.

“Being the closer, I know I can handle pressure a little bit,” Winters said. “I know I have (Kevin) Logan out there and he can track the balls down and bail me out, he’s done it before. Especially in a one-run game, you’ve got to throw strikes. If the leadoff guy gets on, they can do a number of things—they can steal, they can bunt—so you really have to work on getting that first hitter out.”

The offense, who just one week ago was averaging nearly nine runs a game, continues to struggle, scoring just six runs over the past four games. But Friday, they were able to do enough to get the win.

With the win, the Grizzlies gain a game on the Foxes, moving one game behind them in the season standings.

“It’s huge to get a win (Friday), especially against these guys to gain a game back on them,” Lessig said.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Judge, Jauregui lead Wyoming All-Stars to victory

On the game’s biggest stage, the Cheyenne Grizzlies didn’t disappoint.

Tuesday night, the MCBL All-Star Game traveled to Cheyenne for the first time and the Wyoming All-Stars recorded its first victory over Colorado in the midseason classic, 10-3.

Cheyenne’s K.C. Judge, who hit a home run Monday against Fort Collins and participated in the Home Run Derby Monday evening, got the scoring going with a second-inning blast off of Colorado starter Zach McElroy of Fort Collins.

“It definitely meant a lot to get that home run,” Judge said. “I thought about that before the game and how nice it would be to hit a home run in an all-star game because I had never done that. So that was pretty special.”

Later in the game, Judge would double from the left side to bring in his second run of the contest.

Cheyenne’s Jose Jauregui, who leads the team in hits, runs, batting average and stolen bases at the break, stole the show, though, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and a run scored.

“I am always looking to have a good approach at the plate, no matter the game,” Jauregui said. “I’m just trying to get on base however I can.”

Jauregui also recorded five assists at shortstop, including a slick 6-4-3 double play to end the fourth inning, leaving two Colorado runners on base.

“You're out here having fun, and when you're having fun and playing with no pressure, you perform better,” Jauregui said. “We're all just loose and enjoying the game. This is really the only opportunity to sit back and enjoy the game. That really helped us out.”

Wyoming benefited from three runs in the fourth, another in the fifth and four in the sixth to blow the game open.

The Wyoming All-Star team had 14 representatives from Cheyenne, including starters Kevin Logan (0-for-2, walk), Jauregui, Mike Domenick (1-2, run), Judge (2-for-2, home run, double, two RBI, run), Jefre Johnson (0-for-2) and Bryce Reid (one inning pitched, one strikeout, one hit allowed), who opened the game on the hill. Also representing the Grizzlies were Mike Lessig (1-for-2, run), Andy Athans (0-for-1, walk), Mike Wido (1-for-1, walk), Ryan Schwenn (one inning pitched, three hits and two runs allowed), Josh Boyer (0-for-1), Ryan Javech (0-for-1, hit by pitch, run), Jack Winters (one inning pitched, retired side in order) and Howard Heinrich (one inning pitched, two walks, zero earned runs).

Boyer, who received a selection to be on the team but couldn’t pitch because he started the day before against Fort Collins, instead got the opportunity to hit for the first time since high school.

“I haven’t had an at-bat in forever, probably not since high school,” he said. “It was fun going up there and swinging; I had a good time.”

Ahead in the count 3-1, it looked like Boyer would walk before working the count full and eventually flying out to center.

“He threw me a 3-2 slider,” Boyer said. “I was scared. I felt pretty good up there, though.”

Wyoming recorded 14 hits on the night, including eight from Cheyenne players.

“It was a real fun night,” Grizzlies head coach Aaron Holley said. “The camaraderie and getting to sit down with some of the coaches you’re competing with all year and now getting to be on the same side, just talking baseball and enjoying the game made it a lot of fun.”

Two professional scouts were on hand Tuesday evening, including one from the Chicago White Sox and another from the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

With the win, the Wyoming All-Stars claim bragging rights for the first time in the three-year history of the MCBL All-Star Game

“It was really fun,” Judge said. “I was just happy to be out here. It's kind of an honor to play with all the guys from all over the league.”

Monday, July 5, 2010

Home Run Derby kicks off All-Star Game festivities

The MCBL All-Star Game festivities kicked off Monday evening with the annual Home Run Derby, featuring five Cheyenne Grizzlies.

While, no Grizzly made it to the final round, the event was fun for all, and a great way to get fans excited for the All-Star Game, being played Tuesday night at Pioneer Park.

Mike Domenick put up the best first-round numbers among his teammates, and second overall, with five dingers. That put him in good position heading into Round 2, but Domenick went cold, failing to hit a home run and finishing with a total of five home runs.

The combined five home runs was good for fourth place, but only the top three moved on.

K.C. Judge also put up good numbers, hitting a pair of long balls in the first round to advance to the second round.

Fifteen hitters competed, with the top seven advancing before being cut down to three for the final round. Judge hit two blasts in the second round, but like Domenick, it wasn’t enough to make it to the final round.

He did, however, receive loud support and razzing from his teammates, who kept shouting for him to hit lefty.

Judge, who has been working on his switch hitting, moved to the left side for the final out of both rounds.

The loudest cheer, though, came when Mike Wido’s name was announced and bat boy Corey came up to the plate. When he made contact on the third pitch, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Wido went homerless, as did other Grizzly representatives, Jose Gonzalez and Rory Kolo.

Each hitter was given 10 outs, with any swing not resulting in a home run being considered an out. Hitters were allowed to use metal bats and, for the most part, had their coaches throw to them. Assistant Coach Luke Wetmore threw to the Cheyenne hitters.

Laramie’s Nick Smith was the leader going into the final round, hitting 14 home runs despite sitting down with four outs to go in the second round, saving his strength for the next round. Joining him in the round of three were Fort Collins’ Anthony Guglielmi and James Campbell.

Guglielmi hit one in the last round before Campbell knocked eight out of the park to take the crown over Smith, who cooled off and hit three in the final round. Domenick finished with five total home runs, followed by Judge’s four.

Grizzlies grounded

The Cheyenne Grizzlies experienced a post-holiday hangover Monday afternoon at Pioneer Park. Uncharacteristically, the Cheyenne Grizzlies’ offense failed to produce for the second consecutive game, and the pitching was ineffective, resulting in a 13-3 loss to the Fort Collins Foxes.

“We weren’t focused in all aspects of the game, and it showed,” head coach Aaron Holley said.

Grizzlies’ starter, Josh Boyer, who threw a nine-pitch 1-2-3 first inning, gave up a leadoff walk to begin the second.

Four bloop hits, a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly later, and the Foxes (18-6) had run out to an early 4-0 lead.

Cheyenne (17-7) came back in the bottom half of the inning, though, with a two-run shot by left fielder K.C. Judge. The home run was his second of the season and the first by a Grizzlies player at home.

That would be the majority of Cheyenne’s offense, however, as it had just five hits over the next seven innings.

“Offensively, again, we’re just not having great approaches at the plate, bottom line,” Holley said. “With the exception of maybe K.C. Judge, everybody else just isn’t having good approaches.”

In the third inning, Boyer surrendered another leadoff walk, which led to another Fort Collins run. Boyer was limited to just four innings after being pulled one batter into the fifth. In his final four innings of work, he let the leadoff man reach through bases on balls each time, with each one coming around to score.

“We had a good first inning, but we started the next four innings with leadoff walks,” Holley said. “Statistics say that if you let that guy on, more than likely you’re gonna give up a run, and that’s exactly what happened.”

While Boyer was not hit hard (all five of the hits allowed were soft bloop singles that found grass), he did allow eight runs on four walks and two balks.

“They got some bloop hits and stuff like that,” Holley said. “You can look at that however you want, but that’s the game, and you can live with that. If you give them extra stuff, like the walks, then those bloop hits kill you.”

The second called balk resulted in Holley’s ejection.

“I was trying to talk to (the umpire) calmly, wanting him to explain to me what happened,” Holley said. “He said that (Boyer) came set twice. This is Josh’s seventh start and they haven’t called that all year and today they’re going to decide to call it twice. The umpire wouldn’t say anything, and when I asked him again, he ejected me.”

Immediately after being ejected, the other field umpire ran over to Holley and bumped him.

Holley then went back to the dugout where he proceeded to throw nearby buckets and bats onto the field. His antics led to a postgame ejection, which forces him to sit out of the next game.

“When I got bumped I lost my temper and let it get the best of me,” Holley said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

After being pulled from the game, Boyer was also ejected.

Ryan Schwenn relieved Boyer, allowing four runs on six hits over two innings. The Foxes scored at least one run in each inning from the second through seventh innings. The bright spot of the day was the performances of Taylor Fallon, Nick Colbert and Kyle Green, who each worked an inning and combined for just one earned run allowed on four hits.

Cheyenne got its third run in the ninth inning when James McCaleb brought home Mike Wido with a sacrifice fly.

The Grizzlies has now lost two games in a row for the first time this season, the latter being the largest deficit of the year. In the three-game set against Fort Collins over the weekend, the Grizzlies combined for just seven runs and lost a full game in the MCBL standings. They now sit in second place, one game behind Fort Collins at the All-Star break.

Select Grizzly players will compete in Monday’s Home Run Derby and Tuesday’s All-Star Game, both being played at Pioneer Park in Cheyenne. Their next regular-season game is set for Thursday in Cheyenne against Greeley.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Foxes shut out Grizzlies

FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Grizzlies’ offense had a missing fuse Sunday afternoon. A team that has been so explosive all season was shut out on Independence Day, limited to just two hits in a 4-0 loss to the Fort Collins Foxes at The Fox Den.

Locked in a pitchers’ duel, Cheyenne’s Howard Heinrich and Fort Collins’ TJ Fussell combined for just four total hits allowed through the first five innings.

Heinrich was dominant, facing the minimum number of batters possible through the first four innings, receiving help from a double play in the first inning and helping his own cause with two pickoffs.

“He’s pitching great,” head coach Aaron Holley said. “He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do as a pitcher—you know, getting into the sixth or seventh inning, keeping the runs down—he’s doing a great job, we just can’t get him any run support.”

It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth that a run was put across for either team. A leadoff double by Foxes’ Eric Doyle proved costly, as he moved around the bases and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice. In the seventh, Heinrich recorded the first out of the inning, but an Anthony Guglielmi home run to deep center field, followed by two consecutive base hits and a walk ended Heinrich’s day.

“I could tell from the beginning of the game it was going to be a pitcher’s duel, and at the start I was able to get ahead with my fastball and drop the curveball and slider in for a strike when I was up in the count,” Heinrich said. “A few times through the order, though, they saw the fastball and started jumping on it. A few dropped in and that’s the way the game goes.”

He ended up receiving the loss after allowing four earned runs over 6 1/3 innings, walking three and allowing seven hits. His stat line doesn’t reflect how strong his performance was, however. The final two runs were scored when reliever Ryan Schwenn allowed two RBI singles before retiring the Foxes to end the eighth.

While Heinrich pitched impressively, Fussell was even better, throwing seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out eight. He did walk five, but the Grizzlies were never able to string together base runners.

“It’s uncharacteristic of our offense to not score runs,” Holley said. “We had some good at-bats and we had some bad at-bats, but any time they gave us something like a walk or a hit by pitch, we couldn’t’ seem to capitalize. It was a rough day.”

Cheyenne had multiple base runners in an inning just twice and had a runner reach third base just once. Not once did the inning’s leadoff hitter reach base.

“We had some ideas of certain approaches in order to scratch runs across, but it’s hard to do stuff when you can’t get your leadoff runner on,” Holley said.

Unfortunately for Heinrich, Sunday was the second consecutive outing where the lefty has pitched strong but taken the loss. Cheyenne has provided little run support for Heinrich, scoring just two combined runs over his last two outings.

“For whatever reason, our offense dies on the days he’s throwing,” Holley said.

“It is a little frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” Heinrich said. “The guys go out and do their best every game. The game’s usually pretty good about evening things out. I’m sure in the future there will be a few games where I’ll get more than my share of run support.”

The loss marks only the second road loss of the season for the Grizzlies. Their only other road loss came May 30 in Fort Collins, their first road game of the season.

“When you have the bus rides, it gives you time to focus and become more mentally prepared," Holley said. “Usually you have a home-field advantage, but that hour ride lets them mentally prepare.”

With the loss, Cheyenne and Fort Collins are now tied for first place in the standings, both holding 17-6 records. Monday, the Grizzlies will be back in action with a 1 p.m. rematch against the Foxes, followed by the MCBL home run derby at 6:30 p.m., both at Pioneer Park.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pitching, timely hits keep Cheyenne in first place

Friday night featured everything you’d expect from two teams battling for first place: solid pitching, timely hitting and competitive spirit.

Mike Lessig threw 7 2/3 of two-run baseball and the Grizzlies got the hits when they needed them to defeat the Fort Collins Foxes 4-2 at Pioneer Park. The win gives the Grizzlies a 1.5 game lead in the standings.

“It’s nice to be able to win a close game, especially against the second place team,” head coach Aaron Holley said.

Lessig was completely dominant, pitching into the eighth inning and allowing just four hits and two runs, striking out seven and walking just one batter.

“My guys played good defense behind me and we were able to score enough to get the win,” Lessig said about his performance. “We just have to score one more than our opponent and we were able to do that (Friday night). As long as you’re throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys you’ll have success, and I was able to do that (Friday night).”

Lessig admitted that the close score allowed him to stay focused.

“You want to do well no matter the score, but when it’s close like that it definitely does keep you focused,” he said.

Closer Jack Winters finished the game, recording a four-out save.

Despite the offense being so strong most of the year, hits were hard to come by Friday night.

Like Lessig, Foxes’ starter Kory Kiro was strong on the mound, allowing just four hits over six innings. While he allowed four runs, just two were earned.

“This is the kid that beat us the first time we faced them,” Holley said. “He throws three different off-speed pitches, so he kept us off-balanced pretty well.”

While hits were scarce, the Grizzlies were able to produce timely hits when needed.

In the fifth inning, leading 2-1, left fielder Kyle Dodge led off the inning with a single to left field. He stole second and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Wido before scoring on a throwing error by Fort Collins shortstop Eddie Allen.

“I had two strikes on me,” Dodge said. “Batting leadoff that inning, I just wanted to get on. He threw it right down the middle and I was able to connect with it. When I saw he was slow to the plate I decided to take second.”

Dodge provided a huge insurance run to widen the gap a little. Jauregui, who reached on the error, came around to score the team’s fourth run later that inning.

“It’s good to know that even when we can’t put up the big numbers we can still win games,
right fielder Andy Athans said. “We have the pitching to do it and the team to get it done. We have both pitching and hitting and can compete even when one isn’t on that night.”

Athans reached base in all four plate appearances, including a double, walk, hit by pitch and stole a pair of bases.

Cheyenne’s first two runs came early. Leadoff hitter Kevin Logan singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He then scored when Jauregui singled to right field. Jauregui scored two batters later to make it a 2-0 lead after one inning.

The Grizzlies have now scored first in 18 of their 21 games this season, and are 15-3 when taking the early lead.

“It works both ways,” Holley said. “Not only does it allow the pitcher to throw with the lead, but it also allows the offense to know that they can score runs, thinking, ‘Hey, we still have eight at-bats against this guy.’ When you’re scoring early, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

After picking up losses in their first two meetings against each other, Cheyenne now has Fort Collins’ number, taking the last four meetings.

“It's nice to be able to get the wins right now and keep the lead,” Holley said. “The last two times we’ve been in first place we’ve dropped the next game. Finally we’re in first place and we’re holding our lead.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grizzlies’ offense explodes against Grays

The Fourth of July fireworks came a few days early in Cheyenne, as the Grizzlies exploded for 17 runs on 21 hits in a 17-8 win over the visiting Greeley Grays Thursday evening.

Cheyenne took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the offense really got going in the second inning when Cheyenne brought 17 batters to the plate. Fourteen reached and 13 scored, resulting in a 14-0 lead after two innings.

The inning began with a Mike Henrichs single to right field. Second baseman Mike Wido lined a shot just over third base and into left field to put runners on second and third a batter later. Then, with Kevin Logan at the plate, Henrichs scored on a wild pitch, and Wido was brought across on Logan’s fielder’s choice. He would reach and advance to second on a throwing error before Jose Jauregui singled, followed by Mike Domenick being hit to load the bases. Grays’ starter Jarron Cito brought across the third run of the inning with a walk to Jefre Johnson.

“When you get ahead, it’s so nice,” Johnson said. “We all get to take a little bit of a breather. When you’re up 10, the pitchers get to go out there and just let it fly. It changes the atmosphere in the dugout a little bit. You still go out there and do your business, but you play relaxed.”

Ryan Javech then doubled to deep left-center, clearing the bases, and two batters later, Andy Athans singled to bring home Mike Lessig and chase Cito out of the game.

Things didn’t get better for the Grays, though, as Cito’s reliever allowed the first six batters he faced to reach base before getting the third out of the inning. Henrichs doubled, his second hit of the inning, Wido singled, Logan doubled, Jauregui and Domenick walked and Johnson brought home all three with a bases-loaded triple.

“For the most part, we go into the game with a game plan and have a good idea of what types of pitches a pitcher has and when he typically throws certain pitches,” head coach Luke Wetmore said. “We try to communicate with each other and do a good job of taking away a pitcher’s pitch.

"If you have a guy on the bump that throws a fastball and curveball and his changeup isn’t very good, if you take away one of those first two pitches, now he’s only got one pitch and a not very good pitch. You make him one dimensional and can really attack him. We hit the gaps on a couple of curveballs, 0-2, because we were sitting on it and waiting for it.”

In the game, each starter reached base at least once, with eight of them scoring and seven driving in runs.

Johnson and Javech, batting fourth and fifth in the lineup, combined for seven hits and 10 RBI in the game.

“I got fortunate to get up with guys in scoring position,” Johnson said. “I got a few pitches that were left a little up and I took advantage of that. I stayed patient and it paid off.”

The game was especially special for Johnson, who was planning in front of his father, who is in town for the weekend.

“It’s great,” he said. “Instead of talking to him on the phone about how I did, he’s here to see it. Being successful at the plate (Thursday night) was kind of icing on the cake.”

Cheyenne extended its lead to 15-0 after three innings, but two runs in the fourth for Greeley and five in the fifth, made it 16-7, closing the book on starting pitcher Bryce Reid.

Reid was nearly perfect through three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five. He needed just 36 pitches to get through the first three innings, and got ahead in the count with first-pitch strikes to 11 of the first 12 hitters he faced.

Reid picked up his team-leading fifth win, working five innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on six hits and four walks, while striking out five.

“He probably lost a little focus after being up 14-0,” Wetmore said. “Most college kids do. He was absolutely dominant through those first three innings, though. For the most part our pitchers threw strikes. When you’re in the strike zone, and you let your defense make plays, we’re going to get outs.”

Chad Correa worked three innings of relief, allowing just two base runners and striking out four batters. It was his second consecutive appearance where he has worked three innings without surrendering a run.

Nick Colbert worked for the second night in a row, allowing a leadoff home run to third baseman Tyler Wallace before retiring the side.

The Grizzlies have now scored in double digits in three of their past four games and are averaging nearly nine runs a game this season, leading the MCBL.

“We already have pretty quality hitters, but most of the time, what I talk to them about is doing their job with runners in scoring position,” Wetmore said. “We have unselfish guys, so they’re stepping up to the plate with the mindset of helping the team out. We talk about being team-first guys and getting the hands inside the baseball. It’s not rocket science or anything.”

Cheyenne has nearly doubled its opponents, outscoring them 184-94 on the season.

“We’re a team that can do something when we’re not hitting well because we have great team speed, but when we’re swinging the bats well, it just makes it that much easier to put things together and get wins.”

Cheyenne hosts the second-place Fort Collins Foxes Friday at Pioneer Park at 6:30 p.m. The Grizzlies lead the Foxes by a half game in the standings.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birth of daughter gives Boyer new perspective on and off the field

Father’s Day was a little bit different for Grizzlies’ starting pitcher Josh Boyer this year.

Instead of spending it like most of his teammates, or how he had in years past, Boyer spent Father’s Day 2010 with his newborn baby girl, Emery Bell.

“It was nice,” Boyer said. “I got a nice Father’s Day card. People were calling me at like 1 in the morning, sending me texts and congratulating me. It was awkward, but I got a good kick out of it."

Boyer and his girlfriend Krista Renneisen gave birth to Emery Bell on May 25, just days before he went on the mound to begin the summer season for the Grizzlies.

“She was there for daddy’s first game,” Boyer said. “I guess you could say I pitched that game and got the win for her.”

Ever since, Boyer has had one extra fan in the stands cheering her dad on.

“She’s been there for pretty much every ballgame and I know deep down she’s cheering for me,” he said. “She comes to my games wearing her Grizzly gear. She has a little Grizzly sock hat with my number on it.”

Boyer gets to spend most afternoons with his daughter before coming to the ballpark, but the biggest change for him has been the added responsibility.

“Doing things like getting up in the middle of the night and changing her diapers,” Boyer said. “Mom takes care of most of that, though. For me, I really need to find a job. I don’t know how it’s so hard, but not a lot of people want to hire for a month and a half during the summer. I’m trying my best.”

Despite the added responsibilities and time, though, Boyer will be back in school in the fall to finish his undergraduate degree at the University of Northern Colorado.

“I had to sit out this past year because I transferred from St. Cloud State in Minnesota,” he said. “It’ll be my last year of eligibility so I’ll definitely be back in Greeley and am looking forward to being on the field and finishing up my schooling.”

He will graduate with a degree in finance this coming May.

Boyer and Renneisen met two years ago when he was in Cheyenne playing his second season with the Grizzlies.

“We met at a Relay for Life event at East High School,” Boyer said. “We dated that summer and then I moved to Minnesota to go to school. In October she moved out there with me.”

When Boyer transferred to UNC, Renneisen came with.

Despite being born for just over a month, Emery Bell has changed her dad, both as a baseball player and as a person.

"I get frustrated less easily when I’m on the mound now,” Boyer said. “Knowing I get to go home and see her puts things in a different perspective.

“As for how she’s changed me as a person, being a dad gives you a different mentality. It’s definitely a life changing experience. Everyone seems to have a lot more respect for me. I get a lot of comments from guys where I feel like they respect me and kind of look up to me. It’s not something I expected to be doing at this age, but now that she’s here I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Boyer’s favorite memory with his daughter so far was his first, but expects many more to come.

“The birth was outrageous,” he said. “It was absolutely mind blowing just being in there and seeing that. She’s only a month old so there’ll be plenty of other great memories to come with her. I can’t wait.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ask A Grizzly: Bryce Reid

You submitted the questions and Grizzlies pitcher Bryce Reid has the answers.

Reid is a second-year pitcher for the Cheyenne Grizzlies and is entering his senior season at Vanguard University in Lake Ellsinore, Calif. Reid is majoring in Marketing and has compiled a 4-0 record with a 2.54 ERA this summer for the Grizzlies. He has struck out 28 batters in 28.33 innings and has limited opposing batters to a .182 batting average.

What is your favorite baseball memory?
Bryce Reid:
I don’t really have one specific favorite memory but instead several favorites. In high school I threw a combined no-hitter with one other pitcher on the team. Probably another one was my first start in college during my sophomore year. It was actually against Coach Luke’s (Wetmore) team. I went seven innings giving up an unearned run. Probably another one would have to be this past year, I threw eight innings against Madonna University in a regional game. We lost the game but I came in in the second inning and we were already down 4-0. I threw eight innings and threw really well. It was really good for me and a lot of fun. Hopefully that transfers into next year. Of course, almost throwing a no-hitter this summer was a lot of fun, too.

What do you like most about pitching?
The thing I most like about pitching is the feeling of the game being on my shoulders; I’m the one in charge. I have to throw strikes to allow my fielders to get outs. The pressure I get from it, I thrive from. I love the feeling of being out there on the mound and just knowing I can stand out there and look at a batter like, ‘Yes, I can get you out.’

What pitch do you consider as your “out pitch”?
My curveball. When I get the right feel for it, it’s definitely my out pitch. I love throwing it. It usually has a bite to it so I just love going to that pitch when I wanna get some guy out.

Earlier in the season you had a no-hitter going pretty late in the game. What were you thinking about during that game? Have you ever thrown a no-hitter before?
Like I said, I threw one in high school with another pitcher. Usually when that goes on I’m aware of it because I’m pitching, but I don’t think about it because I just try to go out there and I pitch. I feel like the more you think about it, the more likely it’s going to be that you’re going to give up a pitch. If someone eventually gets a hit, like the guy did, I’ll tip my hat to him and move on because there’s nothing I can do about it anymore.

I noticed a man at a game clocking you with a radar gun. Are you thinking about trying to play professionally?
I would love to play professional baseball. I know it’s rare to get there but I work my butt off to hopefully get there someday. I had no idea there was even a guy with a radar gun at the game. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. Hopefully I get drafted next year but if not, I have a back-up plan. (Reid is majoring in Marketing and is getting his master’s in finance and is also going to take the CPA Exam.)

What’s the biggest difference between your hometown and Cheyenne? What’s your favorite part about Cheyenne?
Where I mostly live is at school and my school is in Orange County. So I’m five minutes away from Newport Beach and the ocean. The biggest difference is the whole lifestyle. Being in southern California, life is hectic; you’re always on the run, always having to go somewhere. When you do wanna go somewhere you always have to think about traffic and leave a half-hour or even an hour earlier than you need to be there. Being up here, life is so much easier. It’s care-free, no one’s in a rush, people are a lot nicer, too.

My favorite part about Cheyenne, and you could ask any guy on the team, is probably Frontier Days. I love Frontier Days. I went to the George Strait concert last year, I went to the PBR, the rodeo. I love the country. I’d like to move up to Colorado or Cheyenne after I graduate to get away from the busy life and all of the busyness of life in California.

Before each inning, I’ve noticed you squat behind the mound and pause for a moment before beginning the inning. What is the ritual or superstition behind this?
My school is a private Christian school. I’m strong in my faith so I say a prayer, it’s the same prayer each time. It’s just saying a prayer right before I get on the mound each time.

Who is your favorite professional team and player?
My favorite team is the Angels. I’ve been an Angels fan since I was born; that’s how I was raised. My favorite player is Johan Santana. I love the way the guy pitches. Every time I watch him I notice he’s not scared on the mound and I think he has one of the best changeups in the league. When he came down to Angel Stadium I went down just to see him pitch. I think he has a good head on his shoulders and I love watching him pitch.

What is your favorite hobby outside of baseball?
My father got me into deep sea fishing. I love doing that with him. Another hobby would be going to the drag races. My father makes parts, so I’ve been into that for awhile, too. Other than that, just hanging out with friends and having a good time. As long as I’m with my friends I’m having a good time.

Being a pitcher you don’t get to hit much. Do you miss that aspect of the game?
BR: Yeah, I do. I’ve only been pitching since my junior year of high school, so before that I played outfield. I always used to hit. I love being up there and the feeling you get when you swing the bat and you feel that connection between the bat and the ball and you know you got a good piece of it. I wish I could hit but I wouldn’t change it for pitching.

Do you have a job while you’re in Cheyenne?
BR: I work for the Cheyenne Junior League. I also mow lawns and stain fences, so I’m pretty busy up here. But for the Cheyenne Junior League, there are a couple guys from the team there, and basically what we do is make sure everything is open, turn the lights on, hang the flag, make sure all of the coaches get the proper scorebook for the proper field and proper division of playing for the players. We make a couple announcements, play the National Anthem, and answer any questions. Once all that’s done, we record scores, close everything up, make sure everything is safe and that’s basically it. It’s a pretty simple job, but I got lucky enough to get the job. It’s easier to get a job when you have a car. Last summer I didn’t have one at all, but it’s been nice to be able to make some money while up here.

Stay tuned to learn about who next week’s Ask A Grizzly will feature. E-mail questions to Nic at by Sunday morning to get them answered.