By Oliver Hayes
DENVER – The Denver Generals’ season opener finally arrived on Wednesday evening with the Generals winning one of two games against the Colorado Rogue Baseball Club (3-1) in the long-awaited doubleheader.
Despite the looming gray skies above Denver Christian High School and forecasts predicting thunderstorms across Denver, a stroke of luck allowed the double-header to happen as scheduled–a rarity across the MHCBL this season.
Still, both teams came ready to play amidst another potential postponement. The Generals took the first of two games by a score of 2-1 with the Rogue bouncing back for a 4-3 win in Game 2.
The Generals’ Charlie Hilgers went 2-for-6 on the day with an RBI, a run scored, and a walk.
The Rogue’s center fielder and leadoff hitter Christian Altamirano went 2-for-4 on the day with a double, an RBI, two runs scored, and a hit-by-pitch.
Despite the Game 1 loss, Altamirano and shortstop Joseph Quintana helped the Rogue to an early one-run lead in the top of the first. Altamirano looped a leadoff double down the left field line, followed by an RBI groundout by Quintana.
With two outs and a 1-0 deficit, Generals’ starting pitcher Josh Doerr looked to end the inning. But after walking left fielder Tyler Freeman, Doerr brought big right fielder Brad Lang to the plate. Lang, having shown his power in Colorado Springs with a towering home run just a week and a half ago, looked to do some damage.
With a runner on first, the Generals’ assistant coach predicted that Doerr, a southpaw with a great pickoff move, would nab the runner at first. However, Freeman had other plans, stealing second base and getting into scoring position.
But that would be it for the Rogue as Lang was called out on strike two of the bat, an umpiring mishap that confused everybody.
Unfortunately for the Rogue, this would be the end of their offensive success for Game 1, finishing with only four hits on the ball game. Altamirano and Quintana recorded two hits each.
But if you think that the Generals’ assistant who incorrectly predicted a pickoff out by Doerr was mistaken, Doerr showed why the assistant said what he said, picking off Altamirano in the top of the third and Quintana in the top of the fourth.
While Doerr and the Generals were getting outs on the defensive side of things, it appeared starting pitcher Andrew Gartrell and the Rogue would do the same after a scoreless first inning by Gartrell, featuring two nasty off-speed pitches worth two strikeouts.
But in the bottom of the second, Gartrell found himself in trouble.
After a leadoff double into the right-center field gap by left fielder Alex Ainsworth and a bloop single by third baseman Ethan Kreyer put runners on the corners, Guan Ming-Yu tied up the ball game with an RBI fielder’s choice. Gartrell then lost Heath Perry on a walk.
With runners on first and second, right fielder Camaron Christensen laced the first pitch he saw. But, as painful as the game of baseball can be, Christensen’s hard-hit ball one-hopped into Quintana’s glove, starting a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Just an inning later, Gartrell found himself in a similar situation. With one out, runners on first and second, and clean-up hitter Lucas Scott coming to the plate in a 1-1 tie, Gartrell worked more of his magic, rolling up another inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
But with his pitch count up and the Generals generating baserunners, the Rogue brought out right-hander Nolan Archuleta in the top of the fourth.
Unfortunately for Archuleta, his outing started with the only error of the night, allowing Ainsworth to reach first for the second time in the game. But after a line out to third and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Ming-Yu, Archuleta had two outs with Ming-Yu on first.
But, with Perry coming to the plate and Ming-Yu on first, they decided that was all they needed. With a line drive single to right field and Ming-Yu stealing, Ming-Yu and the Generals’ third base coach decided to test the Rogue, catching them sleeping with Ming-Yu scoring from first to third on the single.
Finishing the fourth up 2-1, the Generals brought in left-handed Michael Thorne to close out the last three innings, which he did. With back-to-back innings with no baserunners, Thorne closed out the Rogue in the top of the seventh with two strikeouts, giving the Generals the 2-1 win.
Doerr was the winning pitcher with one earned run on three hits, two walks, and a strikeout through four innings. Archuleta was the losing pitcher despite only giving up one run on one hit, one walk, and two strikeouts in three relief innings.
With a win in the first game of the season for the Generals, they looked to sweep the Rogue in the doubleheader. But, the Rogue decided they wanted revenge.
As Mason Odegard took the bump for the Generals, Altamirano showed why he bats leadoff once again, working a walk. After a stolen base by Altamirano and a dropped third strike that allowed Altamirano to third, second baseman Alex Upton scored Altamirano on an RBI single to left field.
An inning later, down 1-0, Odegard completely lost command. After walking the first batter of the inning on four straight pitches, Odegard rolled up an around-the-horn double play before giving up another four-pitch walk. Odegard then walked nine-hole Austin Yi before hitting Altamarino at the top of the lineup to load the bases.
With two outs, Generals’ head coach Sam Jones trusted Odegard to get out of the inning. But after a passed ball allowed the Rogue to take a 2-0 lead before giving up another walk to load the bases once more, Jones decided he had seen enough, bringing in Aidan Baker to calm the storm in just the second inning.
But Baker would do the opposite, spiking his first pitch. The ball bounced past catcher Joe Reitz, catching his shin guard for an odd, but rewarding ricochet. With Yi breaking for home, the rewarding ricochet caught the backstop, bouncing to Reitz just in time for a diving tag at the plate to save a run and end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Brady reached base on an infield single before advancing to second on a grounder, then scoring on two consecutive passed balls. That’s all the Generals would get in the inning.
In the top of the fourth, Baker’s woes continued despite the Generals cutting the lead to one with Baker walking the first two batters.
With more location struggles, Jones decided to go to his bullpen earlier than he did with Odegard. But that did not pay off for the Generals as southpaw Nate Kuhta walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. Kuhta then hit Altamirano with a pitch, giving the Rogue a 3-1 lead before walking in another run. The Generals got out of the inning with a force out at home and a lineout to third but the damage was done.
Through the next three innings, the pitching stayed superb for the Rogue as the Generals’ pitching started to find its groove.
English was replaced in the bottom of the fifth by Brian Gartrell, finishing with one earned run on one hit, four walks, and six strikeouts through four innings. Gartrell faced three batters and sat down three batters before getting replaced by Hunter Boneau in the bottom of the sixth who gave up zero runs.
For the Generals, Kuhta got three straight batters out in the top of the fifth as Cole Doebele relieved Kuhta of his duties in the top of the sixth. Doebele struck out the side in the sixth, followed by a scoreless seventh.
Down 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh with their nine-hitter coming to the plate, the Generals hoped to make something happen against Rogue closer Gavin Kaiser. And make something happen they did.
Kaiser hit the first batter he saw despite getting up in the count, bringing up the top of the lineup. After striking out Brady for the first out of the inning, a passed ball allowed the runner to advance to second before Hilgers made it a two-run ball game with an RBI single.
Still, this seemed nothing to worry about.
But after a walk and a passed ball, Kaiser found himself with runners on second and third with only one out in a two-run game with the big designated hitter in Jack Hogan coming to the plate. Hogan ended up grounding out to Quintana at shortstop, but the run scored and the Generals had the tying run on third in a 4-3 ball game.
With left fielder Aidan Lessnau at the plate, Kaiser was rattled.
Up 3-0 in a hitter’s count, Lessnau expected to see something good. But what he saw was ball four, or what would have been ball four.
Lessnau checked his swing on Kaiser’s inside fastball, but the ball hit the knob of Lessnau’s bat, hitting a slow roller to first base for an easy, game-ending out.
Just like that, all the excitement for the home team was gone, the Rogue winning 4-3, Kaiser being credited with the save.
Rogue’s English earned the win as Odegard became the losing pitcher with two earned runs on one hit, five walks, and a strikeout through an inning and two-thirds.
The Generals and the Rogue will play their next games Saturday, June 10. The Generals (1-1) will face the Prospect Wave (3-2) at 10 a.m. at Mullen High School while the Rogue (4-2) will host the winless Colorado Springs Cutthroats (0-4) at noon at Chaparral High School. Both clubs will play doubleheaders.