Miscues costly to Eagles in loss to Grand Junction

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By Craig Harper
For the Courier
The news could have been worse for Dakota Ridge. The Eagles surrendered four unearned runs in the first inning of a 6-4 loss to visiting Grand Junction on March 14, then saw No. 1 pitcher Bryce Evans leave the season’s second game in the second with soreness in his throwing elbow.
Fortunately, Evans’ injury, which occurred when the senior right-hander delivered a solo home run pitch, didn’t appear to be serious. Coach Jeff Legault was told by trainers Evans suffered a “minor muscle strain’’ that probably would prevent him from throwing for at least a week but not from playing right field.
And there was another silver lining: sophomore Bailey Collins worked 4 1/3 strong innings in relief of Evans. Collins retired the first 10 batters he faced and allowed just one run and two hits, keeping the Tigers at bay so the Eagles could make a belated rally after falling behind 6-0 in the top of the sixth.
“We’re deep,” Legault said of a pitching staff that lost all-Jeffco League pick AJ Valerio. “Bailey’s our No. 5 guy, (Ty) Lightey (who worked the seventh) No. 6. That was the end of our pitching the last five innings, so I’m not worried about our pitching.”
Evans didn’t have “ace’’ stuff in his first start. He allowed three first-inning hits, but would have escaped unscathed had right fielder Evan Eppard not misplayed a ball into a two-base error for the Tigers’ leadoff batter. It was one of two Eagle errors in the frame, which included a wild pitch on a third strike, the batter eventually scoring.
“Our defense was great after the first inning,” Legault said. “Our shortstop (Tommy Sautel) made eight out of eight plays; he’s a good one.”
Collins and Kaylor Greenstreet, the two primary offensive returnees, provided most of Dakota Ridge’s punch off Tigers right-hander Neil Ryan, who allowed five hits and struck out seven. Collins reached third base on an outfield error with two outs in the first, doubled with one out in the fourth and drove in the Eagles’ first run with a sacrifice fly in a three-run sixth. Greenstreet, who homered twice and drove in five runs in the season-opening 11-4 win over George Washington, followed Collins’ sacrifice fly with a two-run blast to left.