By Daniel Tapia, Feb. 8, 2022
For the first time since 2020 and with fan-filled stands, CPP men’s baseball hosted its first home game of the season against the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. The Broncos ended the series with wins on three out of the four games in back-to-back walk-offs.
The series consisted of four games played from Friday, Feb. 4 through Sunday, Feb. 6.
The Broncos dropped the first of the four-game series by a final score of 7-1.
In his first start of the season, pitcher Rhys Stevens threw four innings allowing two runs, one hit, four walks and nine strikeouts.
“I felt my fastball command and off-speed command were there,” said Stevens. “The adrenaline rush definitely helped as well as it was the first game of the season.”
The Broncos jumped on the board quickly when third baseman Ryon Knowles roped one into right center for a leadoff double in the first inning. Second baseman Tyler Chaffee brought Knowles home when he singled into right field.
UCCS’s Mountain Lions answered back in the top of the second, scoring two runs, giving them an early 2-1 lead.
Stevens was able to dial back in after a shaky second inning where he retired eight straight batters.
“The fact that I was able to tell myself to settle down, relax, breathe, I think that was huge,” Stevens said. “That helped me dial back in a little bit.”
The score was stalled at 2-1 until the eighth inning when UCCS scored five runs. The Broncos were not able to add any more runs and dropped the season opener by a final score of 7-1.
Head coach Randy Betten explained that this game was a learning experience.
“If you look at the game, was there positives, yes. Was there some negatives, yes,” said Betten. “Can we learn from this game? Yes, and that’s what we’ll do today.”
The series continued Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader. Pitcher Will Rudy made his first collegiate start in game one. Rudy was dominant through six innings only allowing four hits, one run, zero walks and eight strikeouts.
“My fastball command was big for me, and I thought my breaking ball played well off it,” said Rudy.
Like Friday’s game, the Broncos struck first with a four-run second inning.
After consecutive walks to Chaffee and first baseman Casey Slattery, designated hitter Jacob Lopez and shortstop Nick Lugo, each delivered RBI singles on back-to-back pitches, with Jacob Lopez scoring on a double-play ground ball by Knowles. Center fielder Cesar Lopez capped the inning off with a two-out RBI single to score Lugo and give the Broncos a 4-0 lead.
The Mountain Lions reclaimed one of those runs back in the third inning.
The Broncos added a fifth run with Slattery’s RBI single in the fifth. Knowles tacked on another one when he doubled to right field scoring Lugo, who walked earlier in the sixth inning.
But the Broncos were not done yet as two more runs came in the seventh. Chaffe had singled with one out, then came around to score on a stolen base, an error and a wild pitch. Jacob Lopez collected his second RBI of the night driving in Slattery with a single.
The Mountain Lions would chip away by adding two runs in the eighth and four in the ninth.
But it was not enough as Eric Romo was able to shut it down and collect his first save of the season. The game concluded with a final score of 8-7, Broncos taking the win and evening up the series at 1-1.
Scott Armstrong would draw the start for the second game of the doubleheader.
The Broncos got on the board first as Knowles singled to right, stole second, took third on catcher Johnny Pappas’ sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Cesar Lopez.
In the second inning, the Mountain Lions gave Armstrong trouble as they scored three runs on three hits. It would not stop there as they added one more in the third and three more in the sixth.
The win seemed to be out of reach quickly as the Broncos were trailing 7-2 heading into the bottom half of the sixth.
However, the game changed as the Broncos loaded the bases off a Chaffee single and walks by Slattery and Lugo. Chaffee and Slattery would score off consecutive one-out walks by designated hitter Dante Palacio and Knowles to cut the deficit to 7-4. Pappas then delivered a two-run single to make it 7-6 and right fielder Ricky Nunez sacrifice fly scored Knowles to tie it up at 7-7.
The score stayed tied leading up to the bottom half of the ninth inning.
Cesar Lopez led off the ninth, roping a double down the left field line. The Mountain Lions were able to retire the next batter but decided to intentionally walk Chaffey and Slattery to get to Lugo, making it bases loaded with one out.
“It’s a little disrespectful when they do that because they want to come for you, they feel like it’s an easier out,” said Lugo.
Lugo took the first two pitches then drilled the third pitch deep into center field driving in the winning run.
“I went in there confident looking for a fastball and he served me up,” said Lugo.
The Broncos won game two by a final score of 8-7, sweeping the doubleheader.
In the series finale, pitcher Noel Soto received the start.
The Mountain Lions got to Soto in the first inning, grabbing a 3-0 lead. The Broncos came back around in the second inning to get one of those runs back with a sacrifice fly from center fielder Carl Lawson
In the third inning, the Broncos tied it up at 3-3 from a Chaffee RBI single and Slattery sacrifice fly.
Aside from allowing the runs in the first inning, Soto figured it out the rest of the way going five more innings, allowing one run and nine strikeouts.
“We stuck to the game plan early and it started to come around in the second or third inning,” said Soto. “We just stuck with it because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Broncos were trailing by one heading into the sixth inning before Jacob Lopez rocketed a double to left center scoring Lugo.
Neither team was able to add another run up until the ninth inning when the Broncos came up to bat.
With one out in the ninth, Pappas hit a double off the left field wall putting himself in scoring position. Nunez followed with a single of his own to put runners at the corners with one out.
Following a pitching change, Chaffee stepped to the box in hopes of walking it off.
“My mindset was to slow the heartrate down making sure I get a pitch to do what’s best for the team,” said Chaffee. Chaffee, who laid down a perfect bunt down the first base line to score Pappas from third.
The Broncos started their season strong, winning three of the four games with back-to-back walk-offs to end the series. The Broncos will welcome the Montana State Billings on Feb. 10 through Feb.12. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Scolinos Field.
Featured photo courtesy of Carlos Leano
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