Herland helps Palisade sweep through WSL

If, by some bizarre, inexplicable twist, Palisade High School does not get to host a Class 4A district baseball tournament, Tate Herland will have one heck of a memory of his final high school games at Suplizio Field.

He drove in six of Palisade’s 15 runs in the first game, including a three-run home run, in the Bulldogs’ 15-5 victory over Steamboat Springs.

The second game was even more impressive for the senior.

Once the Bulldogs honored their seniors and the parents of Gabe Hellmann, who would have been a senior on this year’s 17-2 team, but drowned in a fishing accident last summer, coach Steve Moore had a surprise.

He opened a bag and pulled out the throwback jerseys. Not replica jerseys, but the actual jerseys worn by the teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s. High school athletic departments don’t throw away much, especially these days.

“He brought these out and it was a surprise,” Herland said. “It was extra motivation. They’re tight, though.”

Well, they are more than 20 years old, and styles and fabrics have changed since before the current Bulldogs were even born.

One thing that didn’t change is how Herland can dominate a team on the mound. He struck out 15 Steamboat batters in his six innings of work in the second game, a 9-2 win.

Three times he struck out the side, although in the fifth gave up a couple of runs in between those Ks.

“Like all the other pitchers, we work really hard in the bullpen,” he said. “The key to success is throwing a first-pitch strike, hitting your spots and staying ahead of batters. We felt in both games we did a great job with that.”

The sweep wrapped up a perfect Class 4A Western Slope League slate, 12-0.

“This is exactly what we wanted this year,” Herland said. “We set our goals high at the beginning of the season. We knew we had a great group of kids and seeing one of our goals accomplished, going undefeated in league play, that’s awesome.”

Neither game was ever in doubt, it was only a matter of how many innings the Bulldogs would need to put the games away. They scored in every inning of the first game and led 13-3 after four.

All they needed was to get out of the top of the fifth, but the Sailors scratched out two runs, so the ‘Dogs needed to pick up two in the bottom of the fifth.

Caden Woods, who homered in the second game, doubled to left and Trey Peden and Herland walked.

Kyle Commette, who had come in to play first base, laced a two-run single down the first-base line for the needed 10 runs.

And then he got mobbed as if he had driven in the winning run in a tie game to win the title.

“It surprised me,” he said of how his team sprinted to first base to pound him on the back and helmet. “I saw them coming; I covered my head. Coach told me once I got my pitch to drive it. I got it down the line.”

Commette, a sophomore, will have good memories of his first Suplizio Field experience just like the seniors hope it’s not their last.

“All week long it was the same thing, ‘Can we really be on the field?’ ‘’ Moore said. “Halfway through the week, ‘Are you sure we’re still going to get to play on the field?’ ‘Yeah, we are going to be able to play on that field.’ ‘’

Herland said he was too excited to sleep Friday night, and Moore noticed the excitement in his club when it took the field.

“I could really tell the way they came out,” he said. “It’s a long day and a hard day for everybody with Gabe, and I think they got tired early, but we finished it and now it’s time to move on.

“We’ll see who we’re going to play and get all excited about who we play in districts. This is the fun time, especially if we get the opportunity to host. Seventeen-and-two, I would hope, but you never know.”


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