Berthoud defeats Mead 6-0 to finish season

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

The sun does eventually shine.

It was almost poignant how the weather over the ballfields at Mead on the afternoon of May 10 provided a nearly-perfect metaphor for the Berthoud High School baseball team. The cool, overcast and blustery conditions did eventually subside; the clouds parted and the winds abated, but only after Berthoud had recorded their 21st and final out.

With that came the sunshine − literally and figuratively − as the Spartans 6-0 victory over their Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) rivals to the south secured Berthoud’s first winning season in over a decade. Led by seniors Patrick Barron and Issac Bracken and Manager Buddy Kouns, Berthoud finished the year with an 8-6 record in conference play, good enough for third-place, and 11-8 overall.

The win over Mead not only sent the pair of stalwart Spartans seniors out on a positive note but marked a major step forward for a program Kouns has spent the last five seasons working assiduously to return to respectability.

“It’s satisfying, yeah, but I have to give all the credit to these kids, the kids are buying in. It doesn’t matter what you do from the top if the kids don’t buy in, and this group buys in,” a clearly-pleased Kouns said as he deferred credit to his players. “I’m thrilled for the kids; 11 wins is a heck-of-a-freaking season.”

While the elements were far from ideal, the play on the field was authentic, timeless, classic, dare one say perfect, baseball. The team’s two ace pitchers – Berthoud’s Bracken and Mead southpaw, Gunner Pickett – combined to allow just a single hit and a single walk through the first three innings.

“We knew it was going to be Issac against Gunner, and we knew it was going to be a pitcher’s duel,” Kouns said. “You kind of had the feeling that the team that scored first was going to end up winning.”

The pair of hurlers’ sublime pitching was reinforced by splendid defensive play in the field; not a single fielding error was committed.

Each had to–at one point–battle out of a mini-jam. A pair of Bracken’s fastballs hit back-to-back batters to give Mead a two-on, two-out situation in the third, but the University of Northern Colorado commit induced a soft grounder back to the mound which he casually flipped to C.J. Balliet at first to end the frame.

In top of the fourth, Pickett surrendered a line single to Barron and walked Bracken with one out but got Balliet to ground to short and a textbook 6-4-3 double-play was turned by the Mead defense.

The two hits in the third were the most Mead was able to do against the Berthoud battery of Bracken and Barron; the latter knowing what to call, the former knowing how to throw it.

“As far as pitch calling goes, they just weren’t catching up to the fastball too much; and if they were it was little bloopers, little ground outs,” explained Barron after the game. “So we stayed with that fastball and threw probably just seven or eight breaking balls all day.”

An adjustment to their approach at the plate before coming to bat in the top of the sixth proved the difference in the game for Berthoud. Kouns, who called Pickett “one of the elite pitchers in the league,” implored his batters to lay off pitches up in the zone, hoping to get the Maverick lefty out of his comfort zone.

“He was kind of dictating to us what he wanted us to hit, so in about the fifth inning we talked about laying off the high pitch,” Kouns said.

The adjustment paid dividends as Barron, Bracken, Balliet and Chris DeSousa rattled off four-straight singles. Jake Yuska, pinch-running for Barron, scored on Balliet’s sharp grounder up the middle to break the scoreless tie and Bracken and Balliet later came home on DeSousa’s single.

The three runs chased Pickett from the game, but Berthoud repeated the feat against Lucas Hale in the top of the seventh. Nick Yuska led off the frame with a single, advanced to scoring position on sacrifice bunt from Tristen Workman that was followed by a single from Barron and back-to-back doubles from Bracken and Balliet to push the Spartans’ lead to 6-0.

Josh Archer relieved Bracken on the mound for Berthoud in the bottom of the seventh and needed just eight pitches to get three outs – two ground balls to second baseman Hunter Pearce and a strikeout of Mead pinch-hitter Brian Kennedy – to preserve the win, and with it the winning season, for the Spartans.

“It means so much, man, shoot, we’ve been working hard for four years and keep getting told if we buy-in it’s going to work,” said Barron after the game. “And it’s just so nice to go out with a winning season.”