By Ben Rossi
“It feels phenomenal! It’s a pleasure!,” Landon Gaber’s postgame statement following his four hit four RBI performance summed up a historic night for the Mile High Collegiate Baseball League at the Assembly Athletic Complex. Tuesday night marked the first ever MHCBL feature game. The Boulder 14ers and Fort Collins Bandits squared off in Downtown Denver.
An initial rain pour left fans, players and everyone in a frenzy of uncertainty. But the rain delay that pushed the game start 15 minutes later, gave both teams the chance to soak in the spectacular venue.
“This field is one of the best, I’ve always thought it’d be great to play here or coach here with the Roadrunners,” said Bandits coach Kevin Mcmillan on the facilities. “There’s no better location right in Downtown Denver.”
Both teams were equally poised to showcase their talent for the MHCBL. Each coach put out their top pitchers to start; Cameron Spaeth for the Bandits and lefty Terry Straber for the 14ers.
Spaeth struggled with his command, walking six batters in the four innings he pitched. The 14ers capitalized immediately. Displaying great plate discipline, they set up RBI opportunities for the middle of the order. The team really broke the game open in the top of the third. After they loaded the bases to start the inning, Gaber lined a first pitch two-run RBI single to left for his second and third RBIs on the night. This give them a 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, a two-run RBI single by Nate Dinges followed by an RBI triple by Fox Locke pretty much sealed the 14ers fate early in the night, giving them an 8-0 lead.
“Just getting runners on base and moving them over did a lot of work” said Gaber on his team’s big performance as he got showered with water during the postgame celebration. “We just kept having fun and we just kept hitting.”
The heavy wind that limited the balls carry on the night did not bother the 14ers offense. They found ways via soft contact to continuously punish Bandits pitching. But the big individual spectacle on the night came on the mound. Straber put up a dazzling display of off-speed pitches, particularly fooling hitters with the major drop on his curveball. There were times when Straber was struggling to locate the zone with his curveball. Each time however, he recovered by effectively locating some of his other pithes like his fastball. This limited the damage done by the opposition.
Through five innings pitched, Straber gave up just two unearned runs on six hits while striking out seven Bandits hitters.
“Terry dealt in the innings” Gaber added. “So we go out there for five minutes, come back and then hit for half an hour.”
The 14ers could not have put up a more commanding performance on both sides of the ball. Coach Mark Goodman was thrilled at this opportunity to put his team on the map.
“I think it’s huge that the league would give us a chance as a first year team to come in here and prove ourselves at this stage” said Goodman.
If the feature game lived up to its name on Tuesday night, it will become an annual staple for the league. One with a sensational display of the MHCBL’s talent.