Sailors baseball works to ‘close the gap’ in 2022

Steamboat Springs baseball players Ben Bogan and Jake Hamric celebrate a solo home run hit by Bogan during a game against Glenwood Springs last June.
Shelby Reardon / Steamboat Pilot & Today

There’s no way to hide it. For some time, there has been a significant difference between the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team and other Western Slope teams.

In 2022, the Sailors are repeating the phrase, “close the gap,” hoping it’ll help them focus on the goal of making games more competitive and taking a shot at the playoffs.

Closing the gap literally means gaining on the teams ahead of them, but there are other aspects of it too.

“Another part of it is making sure these freshmen and even eighth-graders become seniors, there aren’t just three of them,” said senior Jake Hamric. “I’d say that’s part of close the gap too, it’s build the culture of this baseball team”

The Sailors know it’s possible to improve culture and go from not-so-great to pretty-darn-good in one season. Hamric and senior Ben Bogan made it happen on the football team, which posted its first winning season in more than a decade this fall. Ripley saw a similar turnaround over the last couple years with the hockey team, which made a state semifinal appearance this winter.

“Why not us?” Ripley asked.

The team is equipped with a new assistant coach in Joel Cobb, who helped lead the football team to success, as well as a couple passionate volunteers. Caring momentum from previous sports seasons, the Sailors are willing to put in the work.

“There’s a different dynamic this year,” Bogan. “We’re all in on it. Nobody’s like, ‘Ugh baseball, let’s just throw it around.’ Everybody wants to do good.”

Steamboat Springs baseball player Walker Ripley makes contact during a game against Glenwood Springs last season.
Shelby Reardon / Steamboat Pilot & Today

A netted batting area on the lower field at the high school will help the team build up experience on offense. Although the team won’t see regular time on a diamond for a few weeks, they’ll at least get in dozens, if not hundreds, of swings each before then.

“We’re going to get a lot more reps in. We have an actual pitching machine that does everything — curves, sliders,” said coach George Ibarra said. “We’re going to be able to bring that out and use it and get the boys seeing balls that are being thrown at them at 85-, 90-miles-per-hour.”

More reps should help the Sailors improve on offense.

On defense, it’ll be harder to close the gap, but at least that’s something the team is used to.

“Every season it’s the same thing,” Ibarra said. “It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. We go out to play our first game, it’s the first time we’ve been on a field, then we start from there and start making adjustments.”

Thankfully, the Sailors have been able to work on turf a couple times, and, now that the season has started, they’ll see more live action. Spring seems to be on the way, though, giving them hope they’ll be on their home field at Emerald Park in no time.

Also helping the team is the addition of four more players who moved to Steamboat in the last year. Furthermore, the squad has about 10 players who can pitch, compared to the four who made up the lineup last year.

Steamboat Springs High School baseball schedule

March 19 – at Palisade, 11 a.m.

March 23 – at Rangely, 3 p.m.

March 26 – at Eagle Valley, 11 a.m.

April 1-2 – at Roaring Fork

April 6 – at Middle Park, 3 p.m.

April 9 – at Rifle, 11 a.m.

April 13 – at Basalt, 3 p.m.

April 26 – at Moffat County, 2 p.m.

April 30 – at Glenwood Springs, 11 a.m.

May 7 – vs. Battle Mountain, 11 a.m.

May 16 – vs. Summit, 3 p.m.

Ibarra also wants the team to clean up errors, which were the difference in close games last season.

If everything goes according to plan, Steamboat thinks it can win over the likes of Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Glenwood Springs.

“I think we’ll get some good results and certainly I think we’ll see some wins,” Ibarra said. “We’ll make a run at the league, I think. I feel like we will.”

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