Boys of summer: No. 12 Summit baseball plays at home for 1st time in 5 years (photos)
Summit vs. Steamboat Springs — May 5
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Runs H E
Summit 4 2 6 0 - - - 12 14 1
SSHS 0 0 0 0 0 - - 0 0 2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Runs H E
Summit 4 5 4 2 0 - - 15 13 2
SSHS 2 0 0 0 0 - - 0 - -
4A post-season primer
Without jinxing things, the Summit High baseball team is a shoe-in for the playoffs. The varsity team currently sits at No. 12 in the CHSAA 4A state rankings, and the top-32 teams from there earn a bid in the first round of single-elimination play, beginning May 13. Brackets will be released on May 10 under the baseball tab at CHSAANow.com.
Saturday, May 13 — State district playoffs
Friday and Saturday, May 19-20 — State regional playoffs (Final 8, double elimination)
Friday and Saturday, May 26-27 — State finals
FRISCO — They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. But when the Summit High baseball team gets to play at home for the first time in five years, something weird is bound to happen, and it happened again: ace pitcher Andrew Shaw robbed his catcher, Brian Hessler, of a hit — by running into the ball as it bounced between first and second.
At least the boys got it out of the way early this time. On one of the nicest afternoons since last August, the Tigers hosted the Steamboat Springs Sailors (0-10 4A Western Slope) in Frisco for a ridiculously warm day of baseball at 9,097 feet. It was seriously summer out there on the Peninsula, which might explain how the game turned into a real-live, old-school ballgame, with kids playing catch or Frisbee or whatever in the grass next to the left-field fence as guys and gals in flip-flops, tank tops, cowboy hats and summery skirts tilted against the yellow fence liner, telling stories and soaking up the sun. Behind them was Peak One, in front was Buffalo Mountain and on all sides was blue sky, rich with the aroma of brats and burgers from a booster club barbecue. What a way to start summer.
Anyway, Shaw’s second unassisted offensive out of his senior season came in the bottom of the first inning. The pitcher was batting third and singled to left, bringing Hessler to bat in the cleanup spot with bases loaded. He took a crack at the third pitch and launched a grounder between the first and second basemen. It should’ve been at least one RBI — except Shaw, who’s long and lean and some might say lanky, was already three or four steps off the base. He ran right into the grounder for one out, and luckily the ball caromed away from Steamboat’s infielders and into the shallow outfield. Hessler was safe.
The fifth batter, junior Max Hess, then walked with bases still loaded to score the first run, and the Tigers didn’t let up from there. Shaw threw a no-hitter and struck out 10 en route to the 12-0 win in game one, and then jacked a home run in the bottom of the first to spark a 15-2 win in game two. No harm, no foul for stealing a hit from his catcher, who also had a great opening game with two RBIs, a ground-rule double and a triple. It’s no wonder those two have committed to collegiate programs next year.
So, that was Shaw’s second unassisted offensive out of the season. His first came exactly a week earlier (April 28) during the Tigers first loss of the season. It was on the road trip to No. 4 Palisade, when Summit sat in a coveted top-10 position and was still undefeated at 7-0 in the 4A Western Slope. The two-game series might as well have been the league championship.
And then bad luck struck. With the first game tied 1-1 and bases loaded in a crucial third inning, Hessler rocked a grounder to the hole between first and second, nailing his pitcher for one out. Sound familiar? It gets worse: This time, it bounced off Shaw and into the first baseman’s glove, who stepped on the bag for a double play and the third out. What could have been one (or two) runs turned into the start of a 2-4 defeat, which then lead to a painful 1-12 loss in the second game for this team’s only two losses of the season.
“Did you see that in the first inning?” head coach Tom Looby asked me when we talked between the Steamboat games, shaking his head and smiling wide. He couldn’t believe it happened again, in almost the exact same situation, but he knows better than to say lightning can’t strike three times in baseball — especially when his team is about to make history.
Best, and getting better
Where to start with this Summit team? Maybe with that freaky-nice Friday. Not only was it the first time the boys played at home in five years, it was also the first time they’d even set foot on grass in the county all season. This team has managed to go 14-4 overall and 7-2 in the 4A Slope — the best in 4A program history — by practicing only indoors and playing only away doubleheaders, and is now riding it to the Tigers first trip to the 4A post-season.
“I’m just so excited for these kids,” Looby told me, repeating something he’d told parents during the Senior Game presentation when parents, friends and half of Frisco gathered around the backstop. “They’ve got great chemistry, and to see them last night on this field — the first day all year long we’ve practiced on a real field — it’s amazing that they’ve done what they’ve done this season.”
And they’ve done it with plenty of rowdy good humor. I haven’t been to a high school ballgame in years, but I immediately recognized the chatter from back when I played. The Summit dugout didn’t let up for five innings:
“Do it for bam-bam!”
“Come own, dawgy!”
“Give ‘em the chair, Three, sit ‘em down!”
“Atta baby!” So many atta babies…
And it’s translated to incredible play. Just look at Shaw’s line: 103 strikeouts (best in the league), seven wins (best in the league), two no-hitters (best in the league), .466 batting average (fourth in the league), two home runs (second in the league), 23 RBIs (second in the league), and the big one: 0.78 ERA, the best in the league by 0.20 points and third overall for Colorado 4A pitchers.
And now Summit has a chance to keep it rolling. The team has a final game against middling Battle Mountain (3-8 4A Slope) at home on May 8, and then post-season brackets are announced May 10. Looby is tempered about his team’s chances, saying, “every team at this point is good,” but that also means his team is good. Damn good.
“Assuming we take care of business the next couple games, we’ll be in (the post-season),” Looby said. “These kids are excited about having the first chance in Summit history to make it there.”
Here’s to the boys of summer.
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