Summit baseball sends off seniors with dominant doubleheader
Tigers defeat Steamboat Springs 11-0, 12-2
It was a year ago, last June, when Zach Misch and Foster Krueger got the email that they’d finally be able to return to baseball practice after three months of novel coronavirus lockdown.
To the sole two rising seniors for the Summit High School varsity baseball team (7-8, 6-6 4A Western Slope League), it was the light at the end of the tunnel as the COVID-19 pandemic continued. But at least they had baseball, and a pair of dominating wins — 12-2 and 11-0 — versus Steamboat Springs (0-13, 0-10).
“It was pretty crazy because last summer it was like the only normal thing going on,” Misch said Tuesday. “Being here now, it’s kind of crazy to think we’ve played baseball up until this point despite (the) corona(virus).”
Where Misch and Krueger were Tuesday was the senior day spotlight at the end of the tunnel. On Tuesday, after 12 months during which the response to COVID-19 has drastically altered most high school sports, it was a full-fledged return to pre-pandemic normalcy for Summit’s final home games of the season. At the stunning baseball diamond backdrop at the Frisco Peninsula, Misch and Krueger’s closest friends showed up and joined the parents and family in the crowd providing a homefield advantage versus the Sailors.
The friends hoisted up signs down the first-base line that read “Krueger is good at baseball” and “Zach Misch, No. 111 on the field, No. 1 in my heart.” It’s the kind of fun, lighthearted outgoing-senior support that traditionally comes with the end of the school year and baseball season.
“It was great that we could have fans,” Misch said.
On the diamond, the Tigers had a field day. On the mound, Tigers sophomore Zach Willms threw a complete game of five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to eight hits. Tigers head coach Patrick Stehler said Willms threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of the 21 batters he face, consistently setting a temp and keeping Sailors hitters off balance with on-point curveballs and fastballs.
Willms’ showing paired with 11 runs through the first three innings from the Tigers’ batters. It all started with a Misch double that set the tone for not only the rest of the game, but the rest of the day, as the Tigers would outscore the Sailors 23-2 in 10 innings of action. Both games were cut short after five innings per Colorado High School rules that stipulate a game must cease before the usual seven innings if one team has a double-digit lead after five innings are completed.
“The first game was a good way to start the day and everybody having fun,” Krueger said. “We had a rough last three games, lost to teams we shouldn’t have lost to. So the fact that we could come out in first game and hand it to Steamboat, it felt good.”
Misch and Krueger credited Tigers junior KJ Slaugh and his hard work after practices for a breakout 3-for-3 performance, including an RBI. Slaugh would add on two more hits in the second game to earn a hat-tip from his coach.
“He’s been grinding and he was in a slump early in the season, but the results paid off today,” Stehler said.
In the second game, Tigers junior Charlie Pedigo settled in on the mound and earned the victory. Krueger said Pedigo did a great job working the corners and filling up the strike zone.
The Tigers also saw numerous standout fielding plays on a day lacking in errors. At third base, sophomore Will Koll provided a gem of a glove, including a few diving plays.
As for the seniors, Stehler said Misch and Krueger “have meant everything for the past four years.
“With their dedication to the program and helping out the younger guys and setting a positive example throughout their entire tenure at high school here,” the coach said. “They are going to be dearly missed, their attitudes and effort. We’re hoping the younger guys can go ahead and fill these mammoth shoes left after this season.”
Ahead of their final game of the season Thursday at Grand Junction, Misch said what he’s going to remember most about this squad is the camaraderie.
“And all the good times we’ve had,” he said. “You don’t find many baseball teams together like this. And they are all friends, which is harder to leave — the friends, not just the teammates. I’m going to mostly remember the guys — the fellas.”
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