COLORADO SPRINGS — It's not a long drive from Calhan to the metro area of Colorado Springs. After jumping on Highway 24 and cruising through Peyton then Falcon, it really amounts to 20 minutes or so on a bus.
But it can feel far removed. The drive to Calhan, the drive from Calhan, it makes no difference to the Bulldogs. Spring is here and on the baseball diamond, the ninth-ranked team in Class 2A is having a blast.
That's what happens when winning is a common feat and there's a community around to provide support.
"We've been very fortunate with the talent on the field," coach Donovan Mitchell said. "And I can speak to my program in particular when I say we have the best support from our families and parents. These are the parents that drive their kids around the state for seven, eight, nine months of the year because they love baseball."
It's the same with No. 1 Peyton. The Panthers fell just short of winning a 2A state title last year and look to be poised to make another run this year.
Mitchell is perfectly fine if the attention stays away from his boys. And they don't seem to mind it either. After a 15-1 win over 1A No. 6 Evangelical Christian Academy, the Bulldogs didn't hoot and holler like a team looking for attention.
The players exchanged brief high fives and then starting thinking about the next day and the next game. They behave like a squad that's starting to gain some momentum while still going somewhat unnoticed.
"I think we are (flying under the radar)," senior Brayden Dillingham said. "And I like it. When we get up to the tournament, we want everyone to wonder where this team came from."
It'll be hard to underestimate a hitter like Dillingham. He's batting .586 and has blasted three home runs this year.
In his first at-bat on Thursday, his first swings looked like he was trying to hit a 3-run home run with the bases empty. But Mitchell wouldn't dare see Dillingham change that approach.
"We have had a strong team before," Mitchell said. "It's been uncommon for us. What we've preached from the beginning is we need gamers. In the first inning, our four-hole (hitter) wants to go up and be a gamer."
The Bulldogs (7-2 overall) are full of gamers. Seniors Eddie Glaser and Nathan Deputy are both batting over .400 and have driven in 10 runs apiece.
Then there's catcher Joe Hayes. He's batting .296 and has scored 11 runs. But it was his pitching performance against John Mall that stands out the most. He threw six innings in the 18-0 win and struck out 16 batters en route to throwing Calhan's only no-hitter to date this year.
He's just another gamer on the roster.
"What's special about this team is that we're a really tight-knit group," Glaser said. "We play together and we play for each other. We have a lot of respect for each other and we hold ourselves to high standards."
For now, Calhan is happy flying under the radar especially with top-ranked Peyton just a town away. They'll happily bide their time and when the right moment comes, the gamers will strike.