On the surface, a 7-5 record might not bring a lot of notoriety with it.
Yet that’s where Smoky Hill stands through games of April 23 and its hard to question that its been one of best starts for local teams in a baseball season fraught with backed up schedules, taxed pitching rotations and little time or ability to practice.
Coach Bob Kennedy’s Buffaloes sit just two wins shy of matching their win total from all of last season with 11 games left and own a victory over Centennial League powerhouse Cherry Creek, which they last beat in 2017.
Smoky Hill paid back Arapahoe for a Centennial League sweep last season with two victories over the Warriors and its five losses have been competitive and come against some of the best teams in the state so far.
The Buffaloes led until the final stages of a two-run loss to defending Class 5A state champion Mountain Vista (the No. 1 team in CHSAA’s 5A RPI standings), plus close losses to the No. 4 Bruins, No. 11 Horizon, No. 12 Fort Collins and the only other defeat came to a large Centennial League rival in Grandview.
Junior infielder Dylan McKee leads Smoky Hill with a robust .513 average, while his 13 RBI tie for tops on the team with slugging sophomore first baseman Preston Cooper, who has homered twice and has driven in three runs in a game on three different occasions.
Junior Diego Velasquez owns a 3-0 record and 2.41 ERA to pace the pitching staff and pitching nearly a complete game against Cherry Creek, while senior Ayden Grimble owns three wins and junior Liam Grimble has three saves.
Despite three losses in four games — to Mountain Vista, Cherry Creek and Heritage, all in competitive contests — Regis Jesuit is still Aurora’s top performer so far at 12-4.
Coach Matt Darr’s Raiders have found success out of state and in it thanks to a potent offense featuring a trio of .400 hitters — Geno Macias (.421), Ethan O’Donnell (.419) and Caden Wagner (.411, with a team-high six home runs and 21 RBI) — plus one of the deepest pitching staffs anywhere.
Twelve Regis Jesuit pitchers have appeared in at least one game and all have thrown well.
Vista PEAK has quietly put together an outstanding run of six straight wins, which has vaulted the Bison from a .500 team to one with nine wins, second only to Regis Jesuit among Aurora teams.
While Vista PEAK hasn’t had any problems scoring runs during its streak — putting up 63 runs, including a 21-run explosion against Adams City — quality starting pitching has taken the pressure off the offense.
Six pitchers have thrown at least one inning in the past five games for the Bison and the group has surrendered a total of four runs (two earned). James Wasick, Ethan Buckner and Ethan Fitzgerald threw back-to-back-to-back complete games and Joseph Wasick won the other two games.
Rangeview is off to an 8-6 start and has been competitive all season long — including battling with Smoky Hill in a 15-15 contest that is set to be resumed in the sixth inning April 24 — while Grandview (one of the city’s most consistent postseason qualifiers) is starting to gain steam in Centennial League play after a rough start out of state.
A lot can still change in the coming weeks, when more backed up games are on the slate before the conclusion of the regular season.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports