Douglas County got off to a fast start on the diamond this spring, sprinting out to a 5-2 record. Yet even though the Huskies have dropped four straight since, coach Mark Roberts has every reason to believe his team will turn it around, and quick.
Two of those losses, a 13-0 hiccup against Regis Jesuit April 7 and a 7-3 loss to defending state champion ThunderRidge April 11, came against the top two ranked teams in Class 5A. The next four games for the Huskies (5-6, 0-3 Continental) all come against league foes that are also sitting around the .500 mark at the midway point this season, including an April 18 tilt across town at rival Castle View (4-6, 1-2).
“A lot of it has been timely hitting, just baseball,” Roberts said after the ThunderRidge loss. “I was pleased with how we competed at the end today. In the sixth and seventh, we battled back and scratched out a couple runs. This team doesn't quit and I'm proud of that.”
Ask senior third baseman Austin Pitchford, who made a couple Gold Glove caliber plays against the No. 1 Grizzlies, and he will tell you one of the two main issues is that the team has struggled in the field of late. Against ThunderRidge that wasn't an issue as the team committed zero errors and hung tough after falling behind 6-0.
“Obviously we want to win at the end of the day, but for how we've been playing lately it's really an improvement,” he said. “I'd like this one back today, but if we just continue to clean it up in the field I think we can make a run.
“We need to start hitting 1-9 in the lineup; everyone needs to start hitting better. That's why we were so successful in our first few games of the season when we were killing teams, everyone was hitting.”
One player who has consistently been solid at the plate this year for the Huskies is Brett Minnick. The senior, who will pitch at the University of Northern Colorado next year, broke up ThunderRidge ace Jake Eissler's no-hit bid with two outs in the fourth with a towering blast to right for his team-leading fifth homerun of the year.
Minnick, who is hitting at a .387 clip this spring, also managed to fan 10 batters in his third start of the season on the mound. Two of those strikeouts came against San Diego State commit Brody Westmoreland, one of the most feared hitters in the state.
“It's a tough loss, but you take what you can get, little victories,” said Minnick, who has struck out 29 this spring after missing almost all of last season after he strained the ulnar collateral ligament on his throwing arm.
“He threw it well enough to win and he's doing it offensively too,” Roberts said. “He's having a good senior year, we are expecting a lot of out him. It was a tough week for us; we played the state champs from last year, and Regis on Monday who could very well win it this year. We've just got to build on that.”
The Huskies hope to be able to get that done with a balanced pitching staff led by Minnick, Taylor Williams (2-1, 2.14 ERAand Ryan Connolly (3-2, 2.13 ERA) as well as timely hitting provided by a team that has seven regulars hitting over .300 at the midpoint. JP Rubino is leading those regulars with a .464 average and 11 RBI, while Pitchford and Taylor Quintana were both hitting .389 heading into the week.