FALCON — Austin Darby is not walking through the door for Cheyenne Mountain coach Mark Swope anytime soon. But he may not have to. In 2011, Darby was a catalyst for the Cheyenne Mountain baseball team that went on to win the Class 4A state title.
Since then, the Indians have been… okay.
But after a 7-3 win over Falcon on Thursday, they have improved to 10-0 on the season and are looking like a team that is on the upswing and looking to get back into the state contender conversation.
“We’re not going to go to that extreme,” Swope said. “We don’t have swing and miss pitchers, we don’t have nine-strikeout guys on the mound. We’re getting it done by (hitting for) contact and fielding the ball.”
But it’s working. The Indians (10-0 overall, 5-0 Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) have, for the most part, played sound baseball this season, resulting in a climb to No. 4 in the 4A CHSAANow.com rankings. The sound play was on display again with a with over the Falcons (5-3, 3-2).
The two teams battled for 10 innings on Tuesday in a game that saw Cheyenne Mountain come away with a 10-9 win. With the extra innings, it was important — perhaps even vital — to keep pitch counts as low as possible.
So naturally, Swope turned to a freshman. Cameron Buckler threw an efficient complete game. He amassed only 87 pitches and held the Falcons to just two earned runs on the day.
“The main thing coming into a game is just to have a lot of confidence in the great defense that we have,” Buckler said. “I’m just able to throw the ball and if they hit it then my defense is going to make a play.”
Falcon was able to swing for eight hits on the day, but Buckler just kept hitting his spots and working his way out of trouble. Twice the Falcons had runners on second and third, but a ground out in the third and a strikeout in the sixth ended any chance of a rally.
“We just couldn’t get the base hit,” Falcon coach Dana Reichers said. “I’ve always told my ball club that pitching and fielding wins championships, along with timely hitting.”
Cheyenne Mountain got their timely hits in early. On Gary Crist’s first pitch of the game, Aaron Berkhoff ripped a double to left-center. Two pitches later Christian Buckler ripped a double of his own to put the Indians up 1-0.
A stolen base and a sacrifice fly made it a 2-0 game before the Falcons even knew what hit them.
“I told the guys to not miss the fastball,” Berkhoff said. “I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite and take the first fastball. So I just nailed that one.”
Falcon pulled even in the third when Phillip Loving hit a RPI single to score Caleb Chandler. In the top of the fourth, Jack Denver and Chase McCleary flied out. But the next two batters reached and Berkhoff drove them in with a single.
“They changed their approach from Tuesday,” Reichers said. “They hit first-pitch fastball which they didn’t do on Tuesday. So good for them.”
Reichers believes that his club with be okay with the worst part of the PPAC schedule now behind them. But his only focus is on Friday’s game against Pueblo South.
Cheyenne Mountain will see non-league action against Canon City. With Buckler able to go the complete game, Swope will stick with his plan to start Everett Dwyer against the Tigers.
In 13 innings on the bump, Dwyer has only surrendered a single earned run this season. If he can remain efficient from here on out, things will continue looking up for a program hoping to return to championship form.