Summit baseball draws No. 18 Thomas Jefferson, No. 2 Windsor for 1st round of 4A state postseason May 13
Summit is heading to Windsor.
This Saturday, the Summit High varsity baseball team travels to the tiny town southeast of Fort Collins for the regional round of the CHSAA 4A state baseball tournament. The Tigers finished the regular season with a whole mess of school bests — 15-4 overall record, 10-2 4A Western Slope record, both good enough for No. 14 out of 67 teams in the 4A ratings-percentage index — and are now being rewarded for sweat and tears: The team is making its maiden voyage to the state post-season, and you’d better believe skipper Tom Looby is ready.
“They’re working hard this week, and they’re a bunch of guys who, as you’ve gotten to know them, are pretty loose and just enjoy the game,” the head coach said on the Thursday before his team travels to the regional. “If they keep having fun, we’ll do really well.”
Summit’s No. 14 ranking puts them in a pool with No. 2 Windsor, No. 18 Thomas Jefferson and No. 31 Wheat Ridge. The Tigers play Thomas Jefferson (15-4 overall) in what promises to be an even matchup for the first game. Summit has a not-so-secret weapon in senior ace Andrew Shaw, who led 4A pitchers in strikeouts (110) and no hitters (2), and ranked third in ERA (0.82). He can even hit, as so many star pitchers do at this level, driving in 24 RBIs and holding a .754 slugging percentage.
“We have to keep the opponent on their heels with solid pitching,” said Looby, who also said he hasn’t decided if Shaw will start the Thomas Jefferson opener. “We’re all talking about that (Shaw) right now, but we’ll make the decision at the first game.”
In the other game this Saturday, Windsor (17-2) will likely blow through Wheat Ridge (10-9 overall), which could set up one hell of a barnburner championship if the Tigers meet the Wizards in the regional final.
That’s when the rest of Summit’s senior-heavy squad should come into play: senior catcher Brian Hessler, known for doubles and triples; senior outfielder Omar Nunez, known for blazing speed and a good judgment on the base path; senior third baseman Will Heuck, an RBI machine when it matters; senior Jacob Payer, who has found his bat in the last half of the season; and just about everyone else on this Tigers roster.
“I think our guys are certainly ready to compete,” Looby said of the pool, which he admits is tough. “If they can get their bats going, they’ll compete with any of them.”
The ‘what ifs’
I know, I know — it’s dangerous to play the “what if?” game at this point in the season, and it’s especially dangerous with a bunch of superstitious ballplayers. But maybe putting them to print will clear the air of any residual bad juju from the regular season, and we’re all thinking these things anyway.
Besides, it’s kind of fun.
The first big what if: What if Summit had taken two games, or even one, from No. 4 Palisade right after spring break on April 28? For starters, the regional pools would have looked different, with Summit at the top position in a softer bracket like the one Rifle is in (see sidebar). What’s more, if Summit ended in the top-eight RPI teams, the boys might have hosted the regional round at home in Frisco. They played three games there this May after not being at home for the past five years, but man, it would’ve been sweet to make the playoffs and host down the road. There’s always next time.
The next big what if: If Summit wins, then what? The regional round is single elimination, but the semifinal round is (thankfully) double elimination, meaning room for error. Eight teams progress to the semis — aka the Final 8 — and so Summit would face winners from three other regionals with teams like No. 3 Valor Christian, No. 6 Pueblo West, No. 8 Northridge and even No. 30 Eagle Valley.
“I think that if we come away with two wins this weekend… I won’t have to do much to keep them motivated,” Looby said of his team. “They are so excited to be in the playoffs for the first time as a 4A school, and if we make it to that round I think my challenge will be to keep them grounded. They’ll be sky high.”
The final big what if: What if Summit loses? I think Looby says it best by, well, not saying anything. Instead, with two days before heading to Windsor, he’s focused on the here and now.
So is his team.
“First things first: We have to take care of business this week,” Looby said. “I think TJ, Wheat Ridge and Windsor are very, very good opponents, and we’ll have to play some of our best baseball of the season.”
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