Ending what it starts: Central baseball team frustrated by inability to finish games
There isn’t an athlete in the world who enjoys the pain and frustration that losses bring.
One group currently dealing with a particularly annoying type of losing is the Central High School baseball team.
The Warriors are off to a 1-5 start, and aside from a 4-0 loss to Greeley West, Central has been ahead in every game.
“High school baseball is seven innings, and we’ve only been playing three or four innings,” Central center fielder Alec Rupe said. “We have to finish it out, and we haven’t been doing it.”
In no game was that more prevalent than in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to rival Grand Junction. The Warriors rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning before giving up two runs in the bottom of the seventh. If only the Warriors could say that was a one-time occurrence.
Central had two other losses (Woodland Park and Pueblo East) where it led in the fifth inning or later, but ended up losing.
“We are a team that has to do all three phases really well to win games,” Central coach Chuck Yost said. “We have to throw strikes, make plays in the field and get timely hits.”
The good news for the Warriors is they have two opportunities this weekend to snap the streak of tough losses, beginning at 1 p.m. today against Windsor at Canyon View Park. Central plays Conifer at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Canyon View.
“We have two nonleague games to try and knock the rust off,” Yost said. “We have to go play a good seven innings.”
After Tuesday’s loss, the Warriors are savoring the fact they get back-to-back days with games, and a total of three games in one week. After a 15-2 loss to Loveland (which the Warriors led 1-0 at one point), Central had a 19-day layoff before Tuesday’s game against the Tigers. Yost said the Warriors had some of their best practices during the extended break.
“It was a challenge, but we had to get on each other to have good practices every day,” Rupe said. “We got our mind-set right, thinking this is the start of the season now.”
Central has 12 games remaining, and with high hopes to finish as one of the top two teams in the Southwestern League.
One of the Warriors’ up-and-coming players is Rupe, a junior who stepped into the center field position when senior Scott Clow missed games early in the season for disciplinary reasons. Rupe has played his way into a starting spot.
Rupe is currently second on the team with a .389 batting average, which includes two triples, and a team-leading 12 total bases.
“Rupe had a great freshman year, then it took him some time last year to get used to the game speed of varsity,” Yost said. “He’s done a great job stepping into that center field and leadoff spot.”
Rupe has been leading the way offensively, and another junior, Alex Kitzman, has established himself as the Warriors’ No. 1 pitcher. Kitzman is 0-1 in three starts with a 3.45 ERA. Yost said Kitzman is a solid young pitcher with a lot of promise.
“He’s come out and done a great job, but he’s frustrated because he’s not 3-0 and he should be,” Yost said. “He’s got good command, he can throw it past you when he needs to, but for the most part, he does a great job setting people up.”
Although Rupe and Kitzman have been two bright spots early, the Warriors have plenty to fall back on with players like shortstop Spencer Hicks, Clow, outfielder Lanny Baker and infielders Joe Smith and Pat Lambert.
“We have the physical ability to (win),” Rupe said. “We have to show up, we know what everyone is capable of doing.”