Wizards work their magic on Spartans

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

There was good news and bad news for the Berthoud High School (BHS) baseball team in the opening week of the 2016 season.

The bad news is Berthoud was bested by Windsor in each of the teams’ two games; the Wizards blanked the Spartans 10-0 in Windsor on March 10 and then topped Berthoud 10-3 on March 14 at Jack Sommers Field at BHS. The pair of losses has the Spartans off to an inauspicious 0-2 start in conference play.

The good news for Berthoud is they will not have to face Windsor − the preseason favorite to win the Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) – again, and they were able to notch an impressive 9-2 win over Platte Valley on Saturday, March 12, in between the games with Windsor.

“Windsor is tough, they are really tough,” Berthoud Manager Buddy Kouns said after the March 14 game. “They’re the class of our league, but we learned where we are and where we have to go.”

On the mound, Berthoud ace Josh Archer, who as a sophomore last season finished second in the TVC with a 1.64 ERA, pitched better than the 15 earned runs in 10 and one-third innings pitched than his stat line for the two games against Windsor would indicate. Archer struck out 13 Wizards and walked only six in the pair of games and, in the second game of the series, proved routinely able to get ahead of hitters.

It was putting those hitters away, however, that too often proved the junior’s bane.

“Today we didn’t pitch well enough with two strikes, we got hurt with two strikes and at two strikes we need to spot up, and by that we mean not miss just a little high but get way above the hands,” said Kouns. “[Archer] actually made too good of pitches sometimes.”

Despite trailing 10-0 entering the bottom of the sixth in their home opener, the Spartans did not mail it in. Berthoud standout shortstop Issac Bracken notched his second hit of the game to lead off the inning. After a pair of fly-outs, back-to-back singles from Archer and Chris DeSousa brought Bracken home to put the Spartans on the board.

In the top of the seventh DeSousa, pitching in relief of Archer, faced a one-out, bases-loaded situation but was able to induce a pair of fly balls Berthoud centerfielder Colin DeVore tracked down to hold Windsor at 10 runs.

“[DeSousa], for a sophomore, he’s got a live arm, he’s got really good off-speed stuff too,” Kouns said. In two-and-two-thirds innings of relief this season, DeSousa is yet to allow a run and has tallied five strikeouts while surrendering only two hits.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hunter Pearce and Patrick Barron reached base on an error and fielder’s choice, respectively, and both came around to score when clean-up hitter Connor Balliet laced a double into right-center.

Balliet’s pair of RBIs gave Berthoud a positive vibe at the end of the game but Kouns expressed some frustration with his team’s inability to hit the off-speed and breaking pitches that were the centerpieces of Windsor hurlers Corte Tapia’s and Landon Ewing’s arsenals.

“We struggle with off-speed every day. We can’t stay off of our front foot, a few of us can, but not most of us,” Kouns said. “We need to be more aggressive early; we’re seeing a lot of fastballs early in the count so we need to go in hitting the fastballs and adjusting to the breaking balls.”

While the results from the pair with Windsor were disappointing, Kouns said two games does not make or break the season, “there’s a lot of baseball left to be played,” he said. Berthoud registered nine hits and worked eight walks against Platte Valley while starting pitcher Josh Schumacher allowed only four hits and struck out nine to get his first win of the season.

“[Schumacher] threw a great game on Saturday. He kept them off balance, he mixes in a little cutter and curve ball … he did a real nice job,” Kouns explained and added he is still deciding between using Schumacher or DeSousa as Berthoud’s second starting pitcher, after Archer.

Berthoud (1-2, 0-2 conf.) travels to Broomfield to take on Holy Family (2-0) on March 21 and will then welcome the Tigers to Jack Sommers Field to complete the pair’s season series on March 23.