LITTLETON -- The non-league baseball schedule for Columbine couldn’t have been more successful.
The Rebels, ranked No. 6 in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A baseball poll, wrapped up their out-of-conference schedule Wednesday with an 8-4 home victory against Mountain Range (5-4, 1-0 in 5A Front Range League). Columbine will take an 11-0 record when it heads into 5A Jeffco League play next week.
“You always have big aspirations going into a season,” Columbine senior pitcher Blake Weiman said. “All the seniors have been playing together since little league. This is something special. It’s turned out better than we thought.”
The lefty picked up his third victory on the mound this season. Weiman pitched six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. He also struck out 11 Mustang batters.
It looked like it might have been a game featuring the long ball with a strong west wind blowing out to left field. However, longtime Columbine coach Chuck Gillman had some sound advance for Weiman before he took the mound.
“What I told him was, ‘When you make a great pitch and they hit a pop up and it’s 1-0 don’t worry about it.’ There is nothing you can do about this wind,” Gillman said. “He was really effective early.”
Weiman was able to get ahead of batters and didn’t allow a base runner past second base until Mountain Range broke up the shutout with a two-run sixth inning.
“I just have to keep the ball down,” Weiman said about dealing with the wind. “I have confidence in all my pitches and I believe in my defense. I really wasn’t too worried.”
Columbine’s offense did the majority of its damage in the middle innings. The Rebels put up three runs in the bottom of the third with RBI singles by Michael Tait, Austin Anderson and Kyle Lopez.
Anderson highlighted a four-run fourth inning that extended Columbine’s lead to 7-0. Anderson belted a two-run home run to center field off Mountain Range starting pitcher Tanner Peterson.
“When I hit it I didn’t think it was going out until I saw the centerfielder running back,” said Anderson, who was 3-for-4 from the plate with three RBIs and two runs scored. “I just saw it go over the fence. It kind of surprised me a little bit.”
Also surprising to Anderson is the Rebels’ undefeated streak midway through the regular season.
“We knew we were going to have something special. I didn’t know we’d be 11-0,” Anderson said. “This is something special. It’s exciting.”
Mountain Range did make things a little exciting in the seventh inning. The Mustangs loaded the bases with no outs on Isaiah Montoya, who came in to pitch the seventh inning for the Rebels.
Tyler McKinney scored on a wild pitch and Noah Draper scored on a sacrifice fly, but the rally ended when Montoya stuck out Jacob Jarosak to end the game.
“We added a couple of pitchers this year,” Gillman said of Montoya, Weiman and sophomore Taylor Dye who have combined for 10 wins on the mound so far. “We had some pretty good offense last year. We had trouble closing games out. That’s the big difference. We are headed in the right direction.”
Columbine will turn its attention to its seven-game league schedule. It won’t be easy with Ralston Valley (9-1) and Chatfield (10-0) both off to hot starts too.
“The teams that are at the top either have really good hitting or really good pitching,” Gillman said. “There are a couple of Jeffco schools that have both.”
The Rebels open their conference schedule on the road against Lakewood at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 15.
Despite the loss, Mountain Range is off to a good start in the Front Range League. Draper pitched a no-hitter Tuesday in a 9-0 victory against Poudre it the conference opener for the Mustangs.
Mountain Range coach Jeremy Lustik admitted he wasn’t happy with the dozen strikeouts his batters had against the Rebels.
“I didn’t think we had very good competitive at-bats, especially early,” Lustik said. “I really didn’t feel we started competing at the plate until the fifth inning. I think our guys were looking at small field and wind blowing out.”
The Mustangs will play their third game in as many days when it hosts Greeley West at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 10.
“I’m frustrated with the way we played. I’m a little disappointed with the way we played, but I do have hope,” Lustik said. “Columbine is a quality club. No doubt they are going to be in the mix in the end.”