BOULDER -- Entering Saturday's season opener, the Boulder High baseball team's biggest concern had to be the uncertainty of its pitching.
The Panthers were starting a freshman on the hill, and expectations were unknown.
As it turned out, the young hurler threw just fine. The team's hitting, however, left something to be desired.
Boulder dropped its first contest of the season 3-2 to Brighton despite four strong innings from freshman Grant Rogers. The Panthers mustered just six hits on the day and struck out nine times at the plate.
Despite the lack of offense, Boulder had a shot to rally late.
The home team found itself down 3-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning. But a Brighton error and a clutch two-out single by third baseman Tom Baumgartner gave the Panthers hope.
Catcher Nate Marcotte then stepped to the plate with runners on first and second and dropped a perfectly placed bunt down the third-base line. The charging Bulldog third baseman rushed his throw to first and sent the ball bouncing by the bag and into right field. The errant toss allowed senior Nate Bukowski to score and shifted Baumgartner to third.
But Marcotte, trying to advance into scoring position on the wild throw, was thrown out at second base for the final out of the game.
"Our kids competed for seven innings," Boulder coach Steve Disbrow said. "They gave us a chance there in the seventh, but it's the first ballgame of the season for both teams. There are a lot of things to work on, and a lot of things we did well that we can build on. But it's the first game of nineteen. We just have to move on and get better because of it.
The two sides were locked in a pitchers' duel early on as Rogers battled Brighton's James Smith.
Smith was able to keep the Panther hitters off-balance for much of the first five innings with a mixture of fastballs and offspeed pitches. He allowed just four hits and recorded eight strikeouts on the afternoon. It wasn't until a two-out double by Baumgartner in the fifth that plated Bukowski and put Boulder on the scoreboard that the Panthers broke through against Smith.
Meanwhile, Rogers methodically worked his way through the Bulldog line-up. His only blemish on the day was a second-inning double by Brighton's Gabe Medina. The next batter laced a low line drive at Boulder's shortstop that skipped by his glove and into left field, scoring Medina.
Rogers finished his day having surrendered five hits while striking out two.
"It was great to pitch in front of all the Boulder High students. We've been practicing for the past few weeks and I'm getting to know everybody really well. And they were all really encouraging, so it was just great to get out and play the first one."
While Disbrow was encouraged by the show put on by the young starter, he was also cautious not to throw too much at a kid making his first high school appearance ever.
"We thought we would get him out on a good note, get him out feeling good about what he did today," Disbrow said in explaining why he pulled Rogers before the start of the fifth. "Not wanting to overextend him on March 17th was another part of it, too. Short of one tough break there he threw four great innings."
The Panthers next head to Greeley West on Tuesday for their first road trip of the year.
Brighton 3, Boulder 2
At Scott Carpenter Park
Brighton (1-0, 0-0) 010 020 0 -- 3 10 3
Boulder (0-1, 0-0) 000 010 1 -- 2 2 1
W -- Smith (1-0). L -- Flores (0-1).
Brighton hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Lane 4-1-1-0, Archuleta 4-0-1-0, Brazzel, 4-0-1-1, Smith 3-0-1-1, Morales 1-0-0-0, Werbach 4-0-0-0, Medina 3-1-2-0, Adkins 3-0-0-0, Kelley 2-0-1-0, Egloff 1-0-1-0, Bunn 2-0-0-0, Vilpnado 1-1-0-0. Totals 32-3-10-2. 2B -- Medina, Egloff. SB -- Archuleta.
Boulder hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Platt 3-0-1-0, Gaegan 3-0-0-0, L. Bukowski 3-0-1-0, Garcia 3-0-0-0, Feigal, 3-0-0-0, N. Bukowski, 3-2-2-0, Lanzano 3-0-0-0, Baumgartner 3-0-2-1, Marcotte 3-0-0-0. Totals 27-2-6-1. 2B -- Baumgartner. SB -- N. Bukowski.
Brighton pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Smith 5-4-1-1-0-8, Morales 2-2-1-0-0-1.
Boulder pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Rogers 4-5-1-0-1-2, Flores 1/3-2-1-2-1-0, Blessing 1-2-1-0-0-0, Feigal 12/3-1-0-0-0-1.