Baseball teams begin season with Fanning Classic
This weekend’s weather is supposed to be clear.
That’s great news for the Palisade High School baseball team, which had to reschedule or cancel six of its first 10 games last season.
That group of games included the final game of the annual Bill Fanning Classic, which begins Thursday at Canyon View Park and Suplizio Field.
The Bulldogs play Elizabeth at 1 this afternoon at Suplizio Field in their opener.
“Right now we are looking to play games, because this is the best weather we’ve had in two years,” Palisade coach Steve Moore said. “This is going to be a good evaluation for us, and we want to win those games because in the long run, when it comes to playoff seeding, I think these games will mean something.”
How can games played the first weekend of March make a difference when it comes to the playoffs in May? Other than Fruita Monument, Grand Junction and Central, the Fanning is made up of all Class 4A teams. Palisade, which plays only two games this weekend, faces Woodland Park on Saturday.
“It’s really important for us to do well this weekend,” Palisade catcher Pete Lelich said. “It’ll be a good experience and show us what type of teams we’ll be playing against if we get to the playoffs.”
The postseason hasn’t turned out the way Bulldogs have wanted lately. Despite making it the past six years, Palisade hasn’t been able to advance out the district round.
An 8-0 loss to Skyline last season in the first game of the district tournament motivated the Bulldogs all winter. Despite having only one week of official practice, Palisade has hitting since November. Moore said the players are itching to see different live pitching and find out if the hard work is paying off.
“We want to see that faster pitching like we did in state, because we couldn’t catch up with them,” Moore said. “I think because we’ve had the hitting practice since November, they’ve stepped up with their bats, and hopefully the fundamentals will carry over to the season.”
Palisade will be led by senior shortstop Mike Seriani and Lelich. Both players were all-conference last season, and will be hitting in the heart of the Bulldogs’ lineup.
“Those two guys are our big guns,” Moore said. “However, we’re seeing a lot of improvement from Jamr Rhodes and a bunch of other guys that are looking to make contributions.”
Seriani and Jordan Salazar will form a strong one-two punch of right-handed pitchers. Moore said he’s still figuring out the rest of the pitching staff, but said Cody Krabbe and Jeremy Brannon will both be in the mix.
“Our hitting’s where it should be, but our pitching’s behind,” Moore said. “Once we keep getting the guys more bullpens, we’ll be OK.”
Despite losing some key pieces from last year’s team, Moore is excited about what he has. The Bulldogs had the biggest turnout of players in his eight years as an assistant or head coach, he said, with a mix of talented underclassmen meshing with experienced upperclassmen.
“I don’t think we have one outstanding guy that’s going to lead us,” Moore said. “This is a group that has bought in on and off the field. They’re good kids, and that’s the big thing, I don’t see any prima donnas on team.”
Palisade also has the benefit of playing seven of its first eight games at home.
“We have one main goal and that’s to play hard and win,” Moore said. “If we do that, we’ll be OK.”