Crack of the first bat: Champlin’s big game overshadowed by Warriors’ loss
Matt Champlin had the individual start to a season that every baseball player craves.
The Central High School first baseman hit a three-run home run to left field in his first at-bat of the season.
Champlin had a triple later in the game on another well-hit ball to right field.
Despite his individual success, the Warriors (0-1) had the team start every baseball team dreads.
In the first day of the Bill Fanning Classic at Canyon View Park, the Warriors surrendered a four-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, and eventually lost 9-7 in nine innings to Woodland Park.
The Panthers overcame the Warriors’ 5-1 lead with plenty of help from Central. In the seventh, a combination of Warriors pitchers gave up five walks, which set up Louie Neil and Ryan Cannella for two-RBI hits to tie the game at 5-5.
“We have to throw strikes,” Central coach Chuck Yost said. “You have to go out there and execute, and when we throw strikes we are pretty good, and when we don’t throw strikes we aren’t very good.”
Woodland Park added one run in the top of the eighth inning, but the Warriors responded when Champlin’s triple was followed by a Pat Lambert RBI single to tie the game at 6-6.
In the ninth inning, the Panthers scored three runs for a 9-6 lead. The Warriors got off to a good start in the bottom of the ninth, as Alec Rupe led off with an inside-the-park home run.
The Warriors failed to score again and Yost said he was disappointed the Warriors let the Panthers back in the game, but wasn’t surprised that his team kept fighting.
“I expect that out of this team, because we did that three or four times during the summer,” Yost said. “I knew they are plenty capable of making a comeback, and they just have to start getting it done.”
The pitching of Alex Kitzman was a big reason the Warriors held the large lead late in the game. The junior starter threw five shutout innings and struck out six batters. Kitzman will be one of the Warriors’ main starters all season. Dane Barsland, Scott Clow and Champlin also will contribute on the mound.
“Alex did a great job,” Yost said. “He got ahead of hitters, and we helped get him out of a few jams, but he should have gotten the win.”
Offensively on Thursday, it was Lambert, Champlin and Rupe, who accounted for six of the Warriors’ eight hits.
“We have to be more consistent throughout the lineup,” Yost said.
Looking to add consistency are seniors Spencer Hicks, Clow, and Lanny Baker, who both missed Thursday’s game. Aside from the loss to Woodland Park, Yost said he’s excited about this year’s Warriors squad.
“They are scrappy kids, and have a never-say-die attitude, which you saw a little of today,” Yost said. “They are a fun group, because they love the game of baseball, and it carries over to the field.”
Although it appears to be a tough Southwestern League, with Montrose and Durango both having very strong teams, Central’s goal this season is to make it into the Class 5A playoffs for the first time since 2004. Of the four 5A SWL teams, only two make the postseason.
“We expect to be one of those two teams when it’s all said and done,” Yost said. “We have to get better at some things, but our goal is to be one of those two.”
Central looks to bounce back at 1 p.m. today against Prairie View at Suplizio Field.