Dogs in the dirt: Palisade not afraid of physical play in win over Palmer Ridge
Palisade High School baseball coach Steve Moore is a fan of tough baseball players.
He likes guys who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty, sacrifice their bodies and love being the one making the play.
Saturday at Suplizio Field, Moore had to appreciate sophomore Gabe Hellmann’s performance in the Bulldogs’ 6-3 win over Palmer Ridge.
Hellmann was getting his first varsity start at shortstop in place of senior Mike Seriani, out with a knee injury. Hellmann went 3 for 4 with a double and scored two runs.
“I’ve been working hard in practice, and tried to take it over to the game,” Hellmann said. “I wanted to give our team a chance.”
Hellmann also played a clean game in the field, handling all four ground balls hit to him.
“Gabe has grown up a lot both mentally and physically,” Moore said. “He’s playing good baseball right now, he’s seeing the ball well, and so he’s going to get his shot.”
Hellmann wasn’t alone. Palisade’s entire team seemed to enjoy making the tough play, whether that was Tyler Day ending the game with a diving stop at second base or catcher Pete Lelich coming up with base hits to break the game open.
“We preach playing as tough as we can,” Moore said. “The kids have bought into it and they are willing to take one in the chin if they have to.”
Saturday, the Bulldogs were simply hungry to get onto the field. The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 Western Slope League) hadn’t played in 11 days, and Palisade started off the first inning not showing any rust.
In the first, Hellmann followed up an RBI single by Lelich with a double to put runners on second and third base. The next batter, Drew Clinkingbeard, laced a single. Leleich scored easily and Hellmann blew past Moore’s stop sign at third base. Hellmann slid across the plate head first to put Palisade up 3-0.
“I was trying to get him to stop, but I guess he knows better than me,” Moore said. “But we preach being aggressive to these kids all the time.”
Hellmann might have set the tone offensively, but it was senior pitcher Jordan Salazar who helped get the Bulldogs going. Salazar gave up two runs in the third inning, but in his six innings on the mound, kept the Palmer Ridge batters off-balance.
“I thought he pitched great,” Lelich said. Palisade’s catcher. “He came out on top and that’s what we had to do against a team like that.”
The Bulldogs, who travel to Eagle Valley on Tuesday, added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Lelich’s RBI single in the sixth inning scored Jamr Rhodes and sealed the victory.
“I’m glad we didn’t get this rained out, because we needed it badly,” Moore said. “I think this can be a spark plug game for this team.”