Evergreen’s slick fielding, late triple ends season for Palisade

Palisade’s Max Noland is safe at second base with the steal after Evergreen’s Mike Kapner misses the throw during the bottom of the fourth inning of Saturday’s game at Palisade High School.

The Palisade High School baseball team started hot Saturday afternoon against Evergreen, but several nifty defensive plays and strong pitching from Ben Muscatello led to a 3-2 loss for the Bulldogs in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Palisade High School.

The Cougars (13-8) went on to win the Region 3, Quadrant B grouping with a 16-5 win over Fort Morgan. Evergreen was seeded No. 4 in the quadrant and upset both the No. 1 Bulldogs (16-4) and the No. 2 Mustangs (16-5).

“I think at this point in the year, seeds go out the window,” Palisade coach Aaron Howard said. “Their pitcher, we talked to coaches who had played (Evergreen) and we knew that (Muscatello) was a great competitor and has had a great year. He did throw very well today.”

Palisade opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-run single from Max Noland, but Evergreen got a run back in the top of the second on a bases-loaded walk.

Noland, who pitched for the Bulldogs, struck out two and picked off another to roll through the top of the third. Palisade had some momentum in the bottom of the frame, but a heads-up defensive play from Muscatello cut it short.

With two runners on, a Bulldogs player ripped a comebacker just higher than the mound. Muscatello stuck out his right foot and clipped the liner to slow it down, and the ball had enough momentum to roll comfortably to the shortstop for a 6-4-3 double play.

Noland hit a batter in fourth inning and a balk moved him to second, but the senior settled in from there, pitching into the sixth inning without allowing another run. As he neared the pitch limit in the sixth, Noland was relieved by John Taber.

Noland was wildly effective. He struck out five with six walks and hit three batters but also picked off two runners. He was charged with the game-tying run after he’d left the game.

Muscatello got the game-tying single, and the Cougars got the game-winning run when Ben Setlak scored on a fielder’s choice after his leadoff triple in the seventh.

Noland and Stevie Reynolds finished with multiple hits, and Noland also stole a base.

“It was pretty much a clean, well-played game by both sides,” Howard said. “Good high school baseball game. Some things just didn’t go our way, we didn’t execute some at-bats, but that’s the game. That’s baseball.”

The Bulldogs, who have made the state playoffs eight consecutive seasons, graduate nine seniors. This group of seniors were also freshmen during Howard’s first season coaching the Bulldogs.

“They’ve been here for four years,” Howard said. “They’ve been a part of my life for a long time, so it’s going to be hard to not see them next year.”

Pueblo West 11, Montrose 1: Cyclones starting pitcher Tyler Barth scattered five hits and seven strikeouts across a complete-game victory against the Indians (11-9). Pueblo West (17-4) won the regional championship with a 5-4 win against Mountain View.

Air Academy 4, Rifle 0: The Kadets (17-4) beat the Bears (11-9) in a pitcher’s duel between Rifle’s Takoda Chaney and Air Academy’s James Verlinde. Both went the distance, but Chaney issued four walks with three strikeouts.

Verlinde fanned six without a walk. The Kadets also won the regional, topping Cheyenne Mountain 7-2.


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