Preview of the 2016 Summit Extreme Black Diamonds baseball season | SummitDaily.com

Preview of the 2016 Summit Extreme Black Diamonds baseball season

Leo Wolfson
Special to the Daily

College baseball is returning to Summit County.

The Summit Extreme Black Diamonds (SBD), a member of the six-team Mountain West Summer Collegiate Baseball League that stretches from Summit to Grand Junction, begin their second season today against the Vail Vipers in Vail. The team hopes to build on a successful inaugural season, and, considering that they're playing baseball at 9,000 feet and enjoying all of what our amazing home has to offer, it shouldn't be hard.

"It was a really good experience for the kids … . A lot of the kids had never been to Colorado, and a lot of them had never played in a collegiate league before; so, for almost our entire team, it was a first-time experience," 2015 head coach Nick Eversole said.

His players and host families — the local folks who help support the athletes and coaches during the season — agree.

"It was just so fun having these guys around," player host Bill Falcone of Silverthorne said. "They're all great players, and, even more importantly, I think they really connected with the community."

SBD, Round two

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On paper, the team had a moderately successful first year, posting a 14-14 regular season record that took them to the second round of the playoffs.

One of the biggest highlights was the number of long balls and home runs hit, even with the league's wood bat-only policy. The thin, high-altitude air provides less drag on velocity than at sea level, helping balls fly for the fences. Former SBD player Matt Beasely led the league last season with 18 home runs, many of which were hit at league's highest field: Peninsula Park of Frisco. In their biggest slugfest — SBC's first-round playoff win against Eagle Valley— Summit wacked an impressive eight home runs.

However, jaw-dropping stats and records isn't really the purpose of the league. Most players come from small colleges and use the summer season as an opportunity to improve and get noticed by bigger schools or to train for a stronger start for the regular season at their current school.

Building relationships in the MWSCBL is also integral. SBD held a number of community events over the year to bolster the club on and off the field.

"You saw every guy improve in some way with their game," Eversole said. "I did as a coach, and the players just really enjoyed being here… They made connections for life."

Hometown sluggers

One SBD player who's a poster child for the league's cause is also a former Summit Tiger, Thomas Debonville. He was fresh out of high school last season when he started for SBD and wanted a taste of the college-level ball to prepare for his upcoming freshman season.

"It was the first time I had faced off against college pitchers, so that was really nice and really helped me out in the fall to get ready get for the spring season," he said. "I learned a lot from Nick and Brady (Kirkpatrick)."

Debonville used momentum gained in the MWSCBL to launch an extremely successful MVP year at Eastern Arizona Junior College this past spring, batting .380 with an incredible 39 stolen bases — a stat good for fourth in the nation. Now, he is entertaining looks from Division I schools and will play in the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) of Canada this summer, which is considered one of the top summer college leagues.

"Thomas came out here and played, did really well for us," coach Brady Kirkpatrick said. "It's really the goal for us to help these guys improve and reach the next level."

Debonville might be facing the next level of his young career, but he's already grateful for the experience he gained after just one season with his hometown collegiate team.

"I'm definitely excited to see where it takes me and see how much it helps," he said, his voice brimming with jubilation.

Along with him, former Black Diamonds Logan Bima and Matt Dallas have also graduated to the WMBL.

The 2016 squad

Moving into this summer, SBD will have a new roster and more potential than ever. Kirkpatrick, the 2015 assistant coach, now takes the helm for Eversole and brings with him four hot Division-I prospects from his regular-season school, the University of San Diego. Trevor Rosenburg and Dante Gutierrez headline the bunch, bringing an elite level of play that wasn't as prevalent on last year's team.

"I talked to my coach, and they want (the San Diego players) to be on my team to kind of get them ready, get them used to what we're doing for the next year," Kirkpatrick explained.

Also joining the team will be 2016 USA South conference player of the year Blake Butcher, from Division III LaGrange College in Georgia. He slapped seven home runs over the spring season while batting .399 and is my pre-season home run champion pick.

Former Summit Tigers player Luke Egging and 2015 team member Mitch Grey make up the local talent, continuing a trend of mixing local and national prospects. In 2015, the MWSCBL featured players from 30 states, as well as Mexico, Australia and Canada. Diversity continues for Summit in 2016, as the team boasts players from Iowa, Georgia, California and Massachusetts, to name just a few.

"It's a great atmosphere," Kirkpatrick said while gazing at Peak One and the Tenmile Range just south of Peninsula Park. "These kids are going to be in the community a lot. We're going to hope to be doing a lot of stuff with the local baseball teams here — camps and stuff. We're going to have local bat boys come out."

Mountain West All-Stars

An exciting new event this season is the MWSCBL All-Star game and home run derby in Grand Junction on July 2.

"We'll have the east, which will be Vail, Summit County and Steamboat — those three teams — against the west, which is Grand Junction, Eagle Valley and Glenwood," league commissioner Joseph LeFebre said.

Watching the team through last season, it was no secret that they were having a ball. The out-of-state players brought rich cultures and entertaining personalities, and they made no secret of their enthusiasm for a full summer in Summit. The level of baseball was also the highest ever played in the county, and, for those reasons alone, it's worth it for any baseball fan to check out a game and support the newest hometown team.

The Black Diamonds play on the road in Vail today and then return for their home opener Thursday against Grand Junction. All games are doubleheaders that begin at noon and admission is free.

You can follow the Extreme Black Diamonds in the Summit Daily with weekly recaps every Tuesday during the season. For live game updates, check out @SumCoSports or @SummitEBD on Twitter.

2016 Summit Extreme Black Diamonds schedule

Summit County’s local collegiate team plays in the Mountain West Summer College Baseball League with five others, including Vail, Grand Junction, Eagle Valley, Steamboat and Glenwood Springs/Carbondale. All games are double-headers beginning at noon.

Week 1

Tuesday, June 7 — Summit at Vail

Thursday June 9 — Summit vs. Grand Junction

Saturday June 11 — Summit at Eagle Valley (Gypsum)

Week 2

Tuesday June 14 — Summit vs. Glenwood Springs

Thursday June 16 Summit at Steamboat

Saturday June 18 — Summit at Vail

Week 3

Tuesday June 21 — Summit at Grand Junction

Thursday June 23 — Summit vs. Eagle Valley

Saturday June 25 — Summit at Glenwood Springs (Carbondale)

Week 4

Tuesday June 28 — Summit at Steamboat

Thursday June 30 — Summit vs. Vail

Friday July 1 — Summit at Grand Junction

Saturday, July 2 — All-Star game and home run derby at Grand Junction

Week 5

Tuesday July 5 — Summit vs. Eagle Valley

Thursday July 7 — Summit vs. Glenwood Springs

Saturday July 9 — Summit vs. Steamboat Springs

Week 6

Start of league tournament

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