Draper makes his own comeback story

Photo by Brent New
Pitcher Noah Draper of Mountain Range is having a strong season with good numbers.
Brent New

Depending on his attitude, Noah Draper’s coaches told him he could be one of the best things or worst things for Mountain Range in the 2014 season.

Nobody could have seen this coming though.

After a 2-5 record last year on the mound, a year filled with poor body language and even worse defense behind him, Draper tallied another jaw-dropping milestone to his remarkable comeback season when the senior threw the school’s first no-hitter in a 9-0 win over Poudre at Mustang Ballpark on Tuesday.

His 83-pitch gem for Mountain Range featured a blend of four pitches that kept the Impalas off-balance all game long. By the end, Draper struck out first 13 batters he faced, finished with school-most 18 Ks and walked just one over seven unblemished innings.

It was practically perfect.

“It was unbelievable really. Before the year the coaches told me I could be a big reason why we do great or bad this season and that drove me,” said Draper, who is 2-1 with a 1.22 ERA this year. “It’s my senior year, I thought. I didn’t want to just go through the motions like I did last year. I wanted the most out of my last year.”

He’s stuck to the basics to do so. Tuesday, Draper rarely missed with his upper-80s fastball. Out of the 21 batters he faced, the Mustangs senior threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of them.

His slider, curve and change-up were thrown in and helped him more and more as the game went on.

“He has grown so much as a pitcher and leader for us,” Mountain Range coach Jeremy Lustik said. “Sometimes his attitude wasn’t great on the mound last year. Like our defense would make mistakes behind him and he just let it get to him.”

This season, the defense is a little better. Tuesday, second baseman Brandon Weins made a circus catch on a Keaton Bartlett blooper with one out in the sixth inning.

Then, Draper did the rest, striking out three of the next four batters, including Austin Broyst on five pitches to end the game.

“I had no idea I had a no-hitter going or the number of people I had struck out until the seventh inning,” Draper said. “But even if I’d given up a hit or something, it wouldn’t have messed up my mindset like it could’ve last year. I’m just thankful to be out here.”

Draper, who is committed to Garden City Community College, also went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and a triple.