Summit Extreme 13U baseball team takes Castle Rock tourney, 5-0, after spending April indoors
Special to the Daily
Baseball in Summit County is, in some ways, an oxymoron. A location well-known for high-elevation ski resorts, long winters and countless feet of snow doesn’t exactly coincide with a sport typically played in short sleeves and on green grass. Snow here often sticks around until May, preventing the Summit High School varsity team from playing any home games, while the Summit youth teams can only practice indoors until well after their season has started. The temperatures don’t exactly inspire enthusiasm, either, rarely topping 60 degrees until June.
Given the circumstances, almost every little league game requires at least an hour drive to lower elevations. But, somehow, amidst the slowly melting snow and even slower rising temperatures, a Summit team has taken off with an unusually hot start.
Enter the Summit Extreme 13U team. After a solid scrimmage at Fort Morgan in early April, Summit headed to its first real tournament of the season in Castle Rock from April 23-24. Despite missing two tournaments for cancellations and facing Denver teams with a month of outdoor practice, Summit was up to the challenge and came out on top, going 5-0 over the weekend to win the tournament.
“We’re good at getting the big hits when we need to,” infielder Koa Rashidi said. “I feel like everyone’s come up really clutch.”
Dominant in Castle Rock
The Extreme executed wonderfully in a number of high-pressure situations over the weekend. In the opener against Colorado Baseball Academy, Summit survived a nail biter en route to a 10-8 victory. They followed this win with a blowout.
In Game Three, things got hairy against the Standley Lake Gators. After falling behind, Summit rallied back to tie the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth. The Gators intentionally walked the next two batters, which loaded the bases and brought pitcher/catcher Ryley Cibula up to bat. Down 0-2 in the count and with the game on the line, he swatted a screamer down the third-base line, giving Summit the walk-off victory.
The drama continued in Summit’s next game, as the home team faced off against foes from the semifinal round at the 2015 Continental Amateur Baseball Association Colorado State Tournament — the Spartan Gold. The boys in blue dug themselves into a hole early, but, once again, Summit did not roll over. Clawing back to 8-7 in the fifth, and then holding Spartan Gold scoreless in the top of the sixth, the Extreme had one last chance at victory. After getting a few players on base, an RBI single from infielder Hayden Picard tied the game. Spartan Gold responded by intentionally walking the next batter, which loaded the bases and brought up Rashidi. He stayed calm with a focused eye and battled to a walk-off walk, which gave Summit the heart-stopping win and a place in the championship. It might not have been the heroic outcome he was looking for, but it got the job done.
“I wasn’t really looking for a walk as I walked up to the plate… . I was really looking to hit a bomb since the bases were loaded,” he said nonchalantly. “But, I took what I got and got a walk.”
The Extreme had to wait until 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 24 (a school night, mind you) to square off against the formidable Littleton Thunder for their title match. Fortunately, the delay didn’t hinder their momentum. Eight runs in the first helped the Extreme keep the Thunder at a safe distance throughout the game, leading to an impressive 15-5 win for the tourney title.
“We definitely need to improve on our fielding,” coach Shevy Rashidi said. “We also could help ourselves with our hitting and being a little more mechanical … but the kids are doing a really good job.”
This isn’t the first time a baseball team from Summit has experienced success at a spring tournament, but, in the past, practicing indoors while every Front Range team is already outside has been an impediment. Even last year’s 12U state championship team (this year’s 13U squad) had a horrid start their season.
The difference maker: Summit Baseball Academy in downtown Dillon.
“The facility helps a lot,” coach Rashidi said. “In the past we used to rent storage units… and set up netting, and break windows, and schedule kids every five minutes to come in because you could only deal with one kid. The amount of time we have in the facility is four-to-five times the amount of time we could have in the small areas we’ve tried to use as a facility in the past.”
The Academy edge
Located in downtown Dillon, the turfed indoor facility at Summit Baseball Academy offers batting cages and space for infield drills. Although still not equivalent to playing outdoors, the facility provides a space to stretch legs and open up arms before the season starts.
“We’re not driving down to Denver trying to find dry fields and things like that,” coach Rashidi said. “It’s been a big game changer.”
Unfortunately, this game changer may be going away all too soon. Rent in the building is being raised and Summit Baseball does not have funds to pay for the increase.
“It was about $150,000 to get it off the ground,” coach Rashidi explained. “The facility has helped a lot and we’re looking for help to keep it within the community for all the teams.”
Thankfully, this latest spring storm aside, the snow appears to finally be melting away, and so for now the team can concentrate on playing outdoors. They will have five more tournaments in the regular season before the state tournament in late June, which they are qualified for by winning the Castle Rock tournament.
Before state, the team will have one final tune-up in Breckenridge from June 17-19. It’s a rare home tournament at Kingdom Park, and it will be the only time during the season (or in recent memory) that the team won’t have to drive over an hour for a game.
“It’ll be nice to have that home-field advantage,” coach Rashidi said.
“We need a big crowd to help us out for that,” assistant coach Barry Cibula added.
With a deeply rooted bond from playing together the past four years, along with momentum from their state championship performance last summer, the Summit Extreme 13U team promises to be an exciting act to follow over the course of the season.
“We started the first 9-year-old team when these guys played first (and) it’s starting to work because we beat Littleton to win the championship, and what are they, a million-plus?” coach Rashidi said with a grin, referring to the Front Range town’s population compared to tiny Breckenridge. “Baseball is good for that: you’ve got some chemistry, you can beat any team.”
If interested in helping to support the Summit Baseball Academy facility, check out http://www.summitbaseball.com for fundraising details. Sign ups for Summit rec league baseball are also still open for the summer season.
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