Say cheese, Cochise: Apaches thrilled to be back in Grand Junction
Apaches thrilled to be back in Junction
They sat on the bus for several hours watching movies during the Western District tournament, so chilling for a couple of days in a Denver hotel was no big deal for the Cochise (Ariz.) College baseball players.
When the district tournament in Sterling was delayed 24 hours — in the middle of the championship game — last weekend, the Apaches were stuck. They had checked out of the hotel, planning to either start back to Douglas, Ariz., if they lost or Denver if they won.
“Saturday night we scrambled and got kids into two different hotels,” coach Todd Inglehart said. “They had commencement going on ... it was crazy (finding hotel rooms).”
They spent Sunday night in Sterling, then headed for Denver on Monday and across the mountains Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to that drive,” Inglehart said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve made that drive, but I’m looking forward to that drive across (Interstate) 70. I know what’s waiting and parts of that drive are beautiful. I know a lot of our guys have never seen anything like that, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Once the teams got the go-ahead to finish the district title game Sunday afternoon, the Apaches wasted no time, erupting for 10 runs in the fourth inning on the way to a wild 18-11 win over Western Nevada. It was something Inglehart didn’t expect.
“We’re not that type of team. That’s actually the second, maybe the third time we’ve scored 10 or more in an inning,” he said. “We play in a wood bat league so we’re definitely not that kind of team.
“I believe that’s the most runs we’ve scored all year and it was good timing. I knew we were going to need every one of those. It’s a really offensive yard and the wind was blowing out and it was one of those days; you could just feel it. We were up 16-4 and I’m going, ‘We’ve got to keep scoring.’ ‘’
Cochise hasn’t made the trip to Grand Junction since 1989, when the Apaches placed third under Bo Hall, now the athletic director and dean of student services at Cochise.
“I’m familiar with that time only because my A.D. was the coach of those teams,” Inglehart said. “He’s pretty excited to come out with our president and watch. It’s been awhile. I told myself I was never going to go unless we (as a team) went. I get to go now and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Cochise (49-17) can put up runs (406 this season to the opponents’ 180), but the Apaches rely on pitching and defense, even if one of their top pitchers has missed quite a bit of time with a pulled back muscle.
Zach Rodgers is 10-0 with a 1.29 ERA, five complete games and 73 strikeouts to only 24 walks in his 91 innings before his back acted up.
“As soon as he went down, though, Xavier Altamirano got healthy again; he’d been out since March 5 and he’s been great in the playoffs,” Inglehart said.
Altamirano is 3-1 with a 4.06 ERA in a dozen appearances. Rodgers could be back for the World Series, though, depending on how he threw in practice in Denver and how he felt the next couple of days.
“Rodgers is as healthy as he’s been since the injury,” Inglehart said. “He wanted to throw (in the district playoffs) but I said no. It depends on how he throws in practice and how he feels after that. His stats are video-game like and we could use that, but I only want him if he’s healthy.”
Cochise has a team ERA of 3.02, with 272 more strikeouts than walks.
“We’re deeper pitching-wise than we’ve ever been,” Inglehart said.
Offensively, they’ll have a little more pop with the BBCOR bats than the wood they swing all season, but don’t look for the Apaches to swing for the fences.
“We’re not a physical offensive club. What we do well is we finish at-bats; we have some guys who are very difficult outs,” Inglehart said.
“If you look at the numbers, our guys’ walk-to-strikeout ratio offensively is alarming. We’re not physical, but for the most part, we do what’s necessary. It’s gotten us in trouble at times not being able to put teams away.”
The Apaches are patient at the plate, drawing 282 walks. Nate Hale had 55 walks and has struck out 22 times. He gets on base and Tagg Duce drives him in — Hale has scored 69 runs and Duce has 65 RBI.
“They’ve been our mainstay guys,” Inglehart said. “Duce is the run-producer. We have other guys mixed in at the top who are pretty good on given days. Other guys do the little things to help us win.”