Almost at this time last spring, Bayfield High School baseball embarked upon likely the longest out-of-state road trip in program history when then-skipper Danny Petrie took the Wolverines to the massive 26-team, five-site Greenway Festival in Phoenix, Arizona.
This weekend, the Wolverines will again challenge both themselves and vehicles’ odometers as coach Bert Miller and company will make possibly the lengthiest in-state road trip in BHS annals – even longer than the 2013 postseason haul to Greeley when then-senior and now assistant coach Clay Miller walloped a solo homer in the Class 3A state championship series’ opening round.
BHS’ opponent that day? Brush.
Bayfield’s destination this Friday and Saturday? Brush.
Set to compete three times in barely 24 hours at the 2019 Beetdigger Invitational, the Wolverines will get underway on Day 1 against Sterling, ranked No. 2 in the latest CHSAA Class 3A poll.
“Going to Brush is a long ways,” said Bert Miller after practice Wednesday. “We’re leaving at seven o’clock in the morning, we’re going to drive straight through, get out the bus and play ball. So, that might be a little tough, and all three teams we’re playing up there are good clubs. So, we will have our work cut out for us.”
Already with a road win at non-league 3A Lamar and a home win over ever-vaunted Patriot League rival Eaton, Sterling stands 5-1 overall while Bayfield will go into the 6:30 p.m. clash standing 4-4 and long since removed from their previous outing, an 11-8 loss at Aztec back on March 21 when the 4A Tigers erased a 7-3 deficit with eight game-changing runs during their fifth- and sixth-inning at-bats.
“We really fell apart in that game when we had 10 walks as a staff; you can’t win ballgames when you walk 10 people,” said the elder Miller. “That’s the main thing we took away from that game. Our hitting actually came around OK in that game; we did score some runs, and it’s going to be fun getting up there and playing.”
Pressure will certainly again be on Bayfield’s hurlers. Miller believed he’d start senior Max McGhehey against Sterling with senior Andrew Morgan likely his first choice as a reliever, perhaps to prep him for a starting assignment on Day 2, when the Wolverines and hosting ’Diggers will meet for the first time since the aforementioned rumble – which Bayfield won 16-2 at University of Northern Colorado’s Jackson Field.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to go any deeper than that,” Miller said, alluding to the fact that some of his younger arms might even see action at the tournament should seniors Hayden Farmer, Hub Brandon and Jake Brandon be urgently needed in the field rather than on the hill. Junior Shane Moore will likely be out because of a damaged right knee.
Or, more preferably, if Bayfield builds up advantages comfortable enough to permit experimentation.
The Wolverines will then get a vital look at Alamosa – last season’s Intermountain League champion that finished a surprising three games up on second-place Bayfield in the standings – and new boss Bryce Strecker in the scheduled 11:30 a.m. contest before packing up their gear for the long ride home.
And if there’s one thing Miller hopes the Wolverines gain from the excursion and action, it’s a readiness to reclaim that IML title, one which has seldom left the Pine River Valley during the last two decades.
“We get to kick off our (league) opener on the 13th; I think we will be ready for league play,” he said. “Our pitching, I think, will be great. We’ve had two weeks off, and we’ve worked hard on our hitting and our fielding.”