Pitching key for Olathe, Hotchkiss in state tourney
Good hitters are nice to have, but to get to the state championship series, a team must have pitching.
The Hotchkiss and Olathe high school baseball teams have leaned on pitching to get them to the Class 3A state series this weekend in Greeley.
Both teams will need solid pitching to survive the first weekend of the double-elimination tournament.
“It all starts (with pitching),” Olathe coach Darren Sofka said. “You’re not going to strike everybody out, but they’ve kept it in the zone. We’re fortunate to have consistency on the mound.”
Hotchkiss (19-2) opens against defending champion Holy Family (17-4) at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Jackson Field on the campus of the University of Northern Colorado.
Olathe (13-8) plays top-seed Faith Christian (19-2), which knocked out the Pirates at state last season, at 10 a.m. Friday at Jackson Field.
Hotchkiss is led by senior Cesar Macias and junior Jamie Rodriguez, but Hotchkiss coach Jason Yantzer is confident he could call on Macias’ younger brother, Edgar, or sophomore Jacobe Galley.
“Our pitching is deep enough to get through three games in two days,” Yantzer said.
Cesar Macias (8-2, 2.88 ERA) and Rodriguez (8-0, 2.33) have been the horses, throwing 48 and 40 innings, respectively, this season.
“When I look at Cesar and Jamie, they are about the same,” Yantzer said. “Cesar has a little more zip on his fastball and Jamie might have a better breaking ball, but they are pretty much the same pitcher. It’s nice to have both of them.”
Of the five pitchers, junior left-hander Edgar Macias might be the most talented. He can hit mid 80s with his fastball and has a great breaking ball, Yantzer said.
Galley is probably the hardest thrower, but hasn’t thrown much this year. He pitched in relief against Alamosa and Middle Park in the district tournament last weekend and shut down both teams. Zach Larmer has pitched seven innings.
Sofka has Willy Corey back on the mound from last year to anchor the staff in his first year as the Pirates’ coach. Sofka was an assistant under long-time coach Joe Archuleta for more than a dozen years.
“We stepped into this season with three kids with varsity experience, which is why it took us some time to get things rolling. I think we had talent.
“There’s a difference between JV pitching and varsity pitching.”
Olathe lost five of its first seven games before winning nine of its next 10 games to clinch a district playoff berth.
“The one thing that sticks out to me, these guys come out and work hard every day. They like being out here and have good attitudes. They knew it was going to happen when you work hard.”
Corey, a junior, is 7-2 with a 2.33 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Cody Harrison and Ben Kaylor have pitched a combined 50 innings. Harrison is 4-4 with a 5.59 ERA.