Strong sophomores fuel Summit baseball’s quest to compete
Tigers open season Saturday at home vs. Holy Family
When the Summit High School varsity baseball team takes the diamond at the Frisco Peninsula on Saturday morning, it’ll be the kids’ first Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned game in more than two years.
And it will be the team’s first home game in Summit County in a half-decade.
“No one on this team has ever played a home game, so those are two unbelievably exciting things I know the kids are looking forward to,” Tigers head coach Patrick Stehler said.
Stehler said a silver lining with the late start to the baseball season is that Summit will go from playing zero home games in recent seasons to potentially up to nine home games this season thanks to a few doubleheaders.
Stehler said the advent of a home slate has coincided with one of the most together teams he’s had in his seven years coaching the program. The coach said the camaraderie has led to a very prepared team that played summer and fall club ball before winter conditioning and late-winter indoor baseball training.
“They enjoy playing with each other. And in practices, they have shown they are much more prepared this season to go out and play,” Stehler said. “And that extra excitement of not being on the field for a while helped fuel that, as well.”
Stehler said he hopes Summit can improve its offensive output while maintaining the defensive standard of fielding all routine plays that it set in recent seasons. The Tigers this year will be led by just two seniors: the middle infield duo of shortstop Zach Misch and second baseman Foster Krueger. Stehler said Krueger, in his senior year, hopes to improve what was already a high batting average as a sophomore two years ago.
“His bat looked great through the summer and fall,” Stehler said. “We expect him in his senior year to come through and be very productive at the plate. He’s more of a hitter for average, but definitely look for some doubles in the gap from him. He can hit with power, and we’re looking for more of that this season.”
Jax Boyd practices with the Summit High School varsity baseball team at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge Friday, May 7, 2021. | Photo by Joel Wexler / Rocky Mountain.Photography
• May 8 vs. Holy Family, 9:30 a.m.
• May 11 vs. Battle Mountain, 3 p.m. (doubleheader)
• May 15 at Palisade, 11 a.m. (doubleheader)
• May 18 vs. Eagle Valley, 3 p.m. (doubleheader)
• May 20 vs. Rifle, 3 p.m.
• May 22 vs. Woodland Park, noon
• June 1 at Littleton, 11 a.m.
• June 3 at Rifle, 4 p.m.
• June 5 at Glenwood Springs, TBD
• June 8 vs. Steamboat Springs, 3 p.m. (doubleheader)
• June 12: Regionals
• June 18-19: State playoffs
The Tigers will be leaning on Krueger’s production to pair with the base-running speed and savvy of Misch. Stehler said Misch is the team’s best “small ball guy,” with his abilities to hit and run, bunt and execute other little parts of the game that are often overlooked.
“He does them with perfection,” Stehler said. “He’s incredibly smart on the base path. He gets good reads on balls in the dirt, and he’ll take whatever opportunity possible to take the extra base.”
Stehler said he’ll play Misch at shortstop because he’s the team’s best infield defender. In the outfield, Stehler expects sophomore Brecken Perlow to “play like his hair’s on fire.” Stehler said the team will shift Perlow’s location in the outfield based on who’s pitching. Perlow will pair with junior Jax Boyd, who Stehler said makes very difficult plays in the outfield look easy.
Krueger said sophomore Will Cole will be another important infielder this year while sophomore Ephraim Overstreet has improved and grown into his shoes — and his 6-foot-6 size — at first base.
Summit will have sophomore Cassius Bradford catch behind the plate. Stehler said Bradford is a hard worker defensively who has the arm to throw base runners. The coach said Bradford also has the ability to hit for big power numbers.
Stehler, Krueger and Misch all commended sophomore Zach Willms’ improvement on the mound this offseason. Stehler said the fastball-curveball thrower has great movement and location on his pitches. The coach added that Willms’ fast pitching pace on the mound lends itself to Summit’s fielders always staying ready.
Misch said Willms will be the team’s ace because he hits spots consistently and because he keeps hitters off balance. Krueger, who caught for Willms over the summer, said the sophomore has progressed his fastball to the high 70s and improved his curveball.
“Everyone rallies around him when he’s on the mound,” Stehler said.
Summit will be immediately tested when it hosts the state’s third-highest projected 4A team in Holy Family on Saturday, May 8. From there, the Tigers have their sights set on qualifying for one of 24 playoff spots in 4A, down from 32 in regular seasons in response to COVID-19.
“If we’re not competing for the conference championship at the end of the year, we know we did something wrong,” Misch said. “The talent is there. We just need to execute.”
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