Noland tosses
 5 no-hit innings in Palisade loss

Palisade’s Max Noland delivers a pitch Friday night in the Bulldogs’ 4-0 loss to Valor Christian at Suplizio Field. Noland threw five no-hit innings, striking out eight before the Eagles rallied against Palisade’s bullpen.

Max Noland didn’t shrink from his first start of the season on the mound Friday night for the Palisade High School baseball team, even against the top-ranked team in Class 4A and with Colorado Mesa University baseball coach Chris Hanks in the stands.

The Bulldogs’ senior didn’t allow a hit in his five innings, striking out eight and walking five before Valor Christian tagged Palisade’s bullpen to earn a 4-0 victory at Suplizio Field.

The Eagles (1-0), ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A preseason poll on, were focused on working long at-bats, regularly reaching full counts with numerous foul balls. But they never quite squared up Noland, who got five of his strikeouts in the first two innings for the Bulldogs (1-1).

Palisade coach Aaron Howard said Valor’s deep counts resulted in a high pitch count for Noland — he was pulled before the start of the sixth inning with 92 pitches — but added that the right-hander put up an incredible performance against 4A’s reigning state champions.

“Coming in, we knew we were facing some stiff competition,” Howard said. “That was purposeful for us. (Noland) came out, and I was really proud of his demeanor. He didn’t let the moment get to him too much and he was going toe-to-toe with their (pitcher). Unfortunately, his pitch count got up there a little bit there towards the end, but he no-hit a great team for five innings. Hats off to him for being focused and ready.”

Noland buzzed through the first inning, putting the first three hitters down in order. To start the second inning, he struck out Valor shortstop Jonathan Boulaphinh, who is committed to Yale University, then struck out another hitter. After two walks, Noland fanned a third hitter to end the inning.

Noland hit a batter in the third inning, but added two more strikeouts to his total, and solid defense got the Bulldogs through the fourth inning unscathed. Noland plunked the leadoff hitter, then the second batter flew out. A back-pick at first base resulted in a run-down for the second out and a groundout ended the inning.

Noland issued a two-out walk in the fifth, then Palisade third baseman Brett Wagner charged a soft grounder and made a hard throw to first to preserve the no-hitter.

Howard said strong defense was key in Noland’s big pitching performance, the offense just didn’t quite come around.

As Noland’s no-hitter unfolded, Valor Christian’s Luke Ziegler — a 6-foot-3 right-hander — pitched six sharp, effective innings. The junior’s pitch count didn’t climb as quickly as Noland, even though Palisade occasionally poked through hits.

The first hit for the Bulldogs came in the third inning, when Austin Bernal slapped an opposite-field single. The batter before Bernal walked with one out and reached third on Bernal’s knock, but Ziegler coaxed a grounder up the middle for an inning-ending double play. From there, Palisade didn’t have a runner reach third base until the seventh inning, but three strikeouts from reliever Justin Estes cut short the rally.

Valor put a run on the board in the sixth with three singles, all with two strikes. The Eagles tacked on three more runs in the seventh, keyed by a double from Ryan Barber that was ripped into the left-center gap.

Valor Christian coach Brian Bonn said his team’s trip to the Western Slope — the Eagles travel to face Delta at 11 a.m. today — is great preparation for playoff baseball.

“I think the Western Slope is under-rated by the rest of the state,” Bonn said. “When you look across the state at all levels, you have teams from the Western Slope coming in and competing at the state tournament. They represent very, very well. They called us asking if we wanted to play. I jumped right on it knowing we were going to face two very good teams.

“I think we’d rather not start the season hitting like we did, but two of the best pitchers in 4A faced off against one another and they both showcased their skills very, very well tonight.”

Central 3, Prairie View 1: Hunter Kelchner hit a two-run double in the first inning and Caleb Dwyer threw six solid innings for the Warriors. Kelchner finished 2 for 2 and Dwyer gave up four hits with three strikeouts.

Farmington, N.M., 15, Fruita Monument 9: The Wildcats pounded out 11 hits and got a 3-for-5 performance from Druw Sackett, but their late rally fell short in their loss to the Scorpions in a tournament in Piera Vista, New Mexico.

Gavin Brown went 2 for 5 with four RBI with a double and triple for Fruita, which had four-run frames in the fourth and seventh innings.


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