Impact Indians: Montrose advances to Elite Eight for first time since 1959
When it comes to the big stage of the state baseball tournament, Montrose High School doesn’t have much experience.
It’s been awhile — the last time the Indians made it this far was 1959.
The Indians’ first opponent at state, Broomfield, has advanced out of the district playoffs five times this decade, winning the title in 2006.
But to Montrose coach Landon Wareham, that was then and this is now.
“We told them we think we are right up there deserving to be in the Elite Eight,” Wareham said. “But we do know everyone is going to be tough.”
Montrose begins its run at 10 a.m. Friday against Broomfield at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora. If the Indians win, they’ll play again at 3 p.m. A first-round loss would put the Indians in an elimination game Saturday morning.
The championship of the double-elimination tournament is May 29 at Denver’s All-City Field.
The Southwestern League champions enter the state tournament 19-2 and as the No. 2 seed. Montrose cruised through its district, defeating No. 31 Falcon and No. 18 Niwot a combined 21-4.
That’s not too bad for a program that finished with only six wins two years ago.
However, that was B.W. — Before Wareham.
The former All-American shortstop at Mesa State College turned the Indians around last season in his first year, leading them to 12 wins. Once in the playoffs, Montrose won its opening-round game 13-3 over Fort Lupton, but lost to Broomfield 13-0.
“Last year I learned just how tough 4A baseball is,” Wareham said. “But it was a pretty good learning experience.”
What’s made the Indians so tough this season is not only the maturation of Wareham as a coach, but the growth of the seven seniors on the roster.
That group was together the summer before Wareham’s first season, which allowed a relationship to be built.
“It’s the same group that was there when I took over two summers ago,” Wareham said. “It’s been the exact kids, and now we basically we roll it out there and let them take care of it.”
The coach and players have bonded so well because not too long ago, Wareham was in the same boat. Many of the Indians’ players are two- or three-sport athletes. Wareham was a three-sport standout at Olathe High School.
“Kids are getting pulled even more now than 10 years ago,” he said. “It used to be you would (play) a little football, but you could play baseball all summer. Now that’s not the case, so we adjust, and make sure the kids still have opportunities to be kids.”
Although many of the players have other commitments throughout the year, when it comes to performing on the baseball field, they come to play.
The Indians have won games every way imaginable this season, with six solid pitchers, led by Jeremy Storter and Bryce Gaber. Montrose also has a dangerous lineup, led by junior shortstop Nate Robertson and seniors Glayden Berry and Jordan Passehl.
“The kids believe in each other and have a lot of confidence,” Wareham said. “We are going to work hard, and play our type of baseball over there.”