LONGMONT — Maybe the prognosticators had it backwards in assessing the 2013 Longmont baseball team.
The Trojans had just one pitching win returning and lost just one major offensive contributor from a 2012 team that reached the Class 4A state tournament.
But, based on its last two games, Longmont’s pitching seems to be solid and the offense is a work in progress.
The Trojans, ranked No. 7 in the Denver Post coaches poll, struggled to produce runs Wednesday against Greeley Central’s Nathan Smythe and fell to 2-2 in the Northern League (3-2 overall) with a 5-3 loss that produced the season’s first win for the Wildcats and left Longmont coach Tom Fobes bewildered.
“We needed something because we had nothing; it was a bad game all around,” Fobes said. “We didn’t throw it, didn’t hit it, didn’t catch it.”
Fobes momentarily forgot to add poor base running to the losing formula.
Reminded of three costly mistakes on the base paths, he said, “Yeah, we did not play well at all.”
The Trojans– who, field conditions permitting, will conclude the two-game season series with Greeley Central Thursday in Greeley — got a decent pitching performance from Brett Sterkel. But it clearly wasn’t Sterkel’s best effort of his two starts. The junior allowed one run in a complete-game win over Mountain View earlier but walked four batters — two of them with the bases loaded — as the Wildcats regained the lead for good with a three-run sixth inning.
“He’s better than that, and he knows it. It wasn’t one of his better games,” Fobes said of Sterkel, who gave up seven hits and six runs (five earned) in 52/3 innings. “He was up in the zone and couldn’t find the low zone. They did a good job putting the ball in play and we didn’t make some plays and then he got a couple of balls up and they scored their runs.”
But pitching was the least of Fobes’ concerns. Longmont managed just three runs and five hits in a 3-2 win over Niwot in its previous outing and produced just six hits against Greeley Central, dropping the team’s season batting average from .301 to .284 (the 2012 Trojans hit .323). Longmont scored 25 runs in its first three games, six in the last two.
Worse, Greeley Central had allowed 62 runs in going 0-5 before Wednesday, including 29 in a pair of losses to league-leading Broomfield.
“We haven’t been hitting it very well,” Fobes said. “We haven’t had double-digits hits all year yet. I expected us to hit better than we have, for sure.”
One Trojan who had Smythe figured out was Kyler Leroux. The junior right fielder went 2 for 3 with a two-out, two-run double in the fifth that gave Longmont its only lead, 3-2. But Leroux apparently thought the blast to right-center was a home run. Jogging around the bases apparently unaware the ball was in play, he was thrown out trying to return to second base, ending the inning.
It was the third of three base-running mistakes. With runners at second and third and one out in the second, Tyler Pettibone was tagged out at third on a grounder to shortstop that scored a run. In the fifth, prior to Leroux’s double, Andrew Bladt was thrown out going from third to home on a groundball to the shortstop with no outs.
“Maybe if we push those (runners) across it’s a whole different game,” Fobes said.
Fobes said he probably will start junior Will Amen in Thursday’s game, with Josh Crist, who beat Niwot, seeing time on the mound as well.
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Greeley Central 5, Longmont 3
At Longmont H.S.
Greeley Central (1-5, 1-2) 101 003 0 — 5 7 2
Longmont (3-2, 2-2) 010 020 0 — 3 6 3
W — Smythe. L — Sterkel (1-1).
Greeley Central hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Lechman 3-1-1-1, Pisano 3-0-1-1, Smythe 4-0-2-0, Lopez 2-1-0-1, Trego 3-1-1-1, Guyette 4-1-1-0, Gray 3-0-0-0, Rivas 1-0-0-0, Agens 3-0-1-0, Lenz 1-1-0-0, DeLaRosa 0-0-0-0. Totals 27-5-7-4.
Longmont hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Bladt 4-0-1-0, Yee 4-1-1-0, Crist 4-1-1-0, Magee 3-0-0-0, Leroux 3-1-2-2, Amen 3-0-0-0, Pettibone 2-0-1-0, Sterkele 3-0-0-1, Zuege 1-0-0-0, Madrid 1-0-0-0. 28-3-6-3 2B — Leroux, Pettibone.
Greeley Central pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Smythe 6.1-6-3-02-2, Lechman 0.2-0-0-0-0-1.
Longmont pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Sterkel 5.2-7-5-4-4-6, Madrid 1.1-0-0-0-1-0.