I was grateful they moved the mini cannon a ways down the left-field line.
During the playing of the national anthem at Montrose High School baseball home games, the cannon booms once at “bombs bursting in air,” and a second time at the song’s end. The cannon guy usually sets up right near home plate, which can jolt fans in the bleachers, even if you know it’s coming. The new location down the line was better last Saturday, as Montrose hosted a state tournament round one: four teams, three games, one survivor to the quarterfinals on the Front Range. Even so, I saw parents and coaches on the Woodland Park HS side of the field jump out of their skins at the first explosion.
Pyrotechnics aside, the Panthers (Woodland Park is west of Colorado Springs) ran into a talented and disciplined Montrose team in the morning game. Junior Tyrus Lopez drew the start and pitched a five-inning perfect game: not a single Woodland Park batter reached base. The Indian hitters put on a clinic, patiently working the count for walks and base hits, lashing doubles into the gaps, scoring every which way until, in the bottom of the fifth their 10th run triggered the automatic “mercy rule,” and the game was called.
The field on this glorious spring day was a perfectly prepared Italian flag: green grass, red-dirt infield, white chalk lines. The stands were packed. Girls in short shorts – nowhere to pocket their smart phones! Moms dolled up to impress – who? Not their player-sons. Must have been to impress the other moms. Old guys (MHS alumni?) with their own chairs and their own cheers: “Atta boy, Tyrus. Hum Baby!”
One of the few bleacher seats available when I got there had a backstop pole obscuring the view of home plate. I apologized for crowding the guy to my left, as I leaned in to see down the first-base line. He was mellow. He was from Moab. The kid on the mound throwing the no-hitter was his grandson.
We compared notes on the sophisticated coaching by the Indians’ Landon Wareham. Wareham called most of the pitches. Catcher Jake Bradburn would look over to his dugout then relay the sign to Lopez. More often than not, they’d start the hitter out with a fastball low in the strike zone. Then show him a curve, followed by high heat, which the Panthers seemed unable to resist. Or hit.
At one point the Indians manufactured a run using a walk and two bunts. The first was a straight sacrifice, beautifully executed. The second one, pushed perfectly up the third-base line, died untouched on the grass as the Woodland Park third-baseman froze, torn between covering the bag and charging the ball.
Another Indians’ run came on a similarly crafty play. With runners on first and third, Wareham ordered a steal of second base. The runner took off with the pitch, but not very wholeheartedly it seemed to me. And when the Woodland Park catcher threw to the second baseman, initiating a run-down, the Montrose runner on third strolled home. Wareham had given up an out to get a run.
“That’s why we did it,” he told me, matter-of-fact, after the game.
I had to leave after this opening contest, though I wish I could have stayed. Montrose played noon-game winner Erie High School (from east of Boulder) in the crucial third matchup to determine who would advance. And it was a doozy, apparently.
Indians starting pitcher Skylar Haynes was touched up for five hits and four runs in the top of the first inning. Montrose clawed slowly back, as Haynes settled down and scattered four hits with no runs the rest of the way. And he helped himself, as they say, in the most dramatic fashion possible.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the Indians trailing 4-3 and Tyrus Lopez on base with a single, Haynes drilled a pitch over the right-field wall onto South Townsend Avenue. Five-four Montrose.
Then, in the top of the seventh, still pumped up after stroking the go-ahead home run, he retired the Tigers in order: 1, 2, 3. Game over.
Montrose goes on now, though, sadly, we at home don’t get to watch them play. Unless we want to make the drive over to Aurora. The Indians take on Valor Christian on Friday. This one has added meaning. The Eagles (seeded No. 10 with a record of 14-7) handed the Indians the first of their two losses this season, on April 20, by a score of 5-4.
Montrose is seeded second at 19-2, behind only Fort Morgan, with a 20-1 record. Last year at the Elite 8, Montrose lost to Denver’s D’Evelyn HS. All of the Jaguars had bleached their hair platinum blonde.