Junior Tyler Harris created a long-lasting memory March 20 as he blasted a walk-off home run well over the 340-foot mark to give Englewood High School’s baseball team the 5-4 victory for the team’s fifth win of the season.
The Pirates have little time to enjoy the win as they were scheduled to be on the field again March 22 against Arvada, weather permitting.
Whether the weather permitted the Englewood-Arvada game or not, the team was heading into a week off for spring break. School resumes April 1 and the baseball team resumes play the same day, as they will travel to Manual High School for a 4 p.m. game.
They return home April 3 for an important league game against Elizabeth, and April 5 they will play a rematch with the Cardinals on their home diamond.
Elizabeth came into the week with a 1-1 record, but plans were to play several games during the last week of March, when they journey to an invitational tournament in Arizona.
Englewood’s April 3 home game begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be played on Harry Wise Field, north of the high school in the Hosanna Sports Complex.
Pirate coach Mike Rowe said he was happy with the fact the team is 5-1-1 and is off to the best start in several years.
“I think the difference is we have 12 guys who come to the field every day ready to play baseball,” he said before the March 20 Fort Lupton game. “We have been playing well. We are hitting the ball hard, our field is vastly improved over last year’s and our pitching has been strong.”
He said he credits much of the improved pitching to the adoption of focus on pitching to contact.
“We stress to our pitchers that, instead of trying to paint the corners and strike out the batter, the focus should be delivering the ball in the strike zone and, if the guy gets a bat on the ball, then we need to play good defense,” the coach said. “I tell the guys that pounding the strike zone is the goal because even the best guys with the bat only get a base hit three of 10 trips to the plate.”
He said it also helps that the Pirates have a deep roster. He said Englewood took the field against Fort Lupton without two starters and with three or four guys playing despite minor injuries.
“That could have been a problem except for the fact we have good players on the bench so, when we substitute, there is no drop in the caliber of play,” Rowe said.
Englewood came into the March 20 game with decisive wins in four of their last five games.
It proved to be a class between two evenly matched team and turned into a see-saw battle. Englewood scored first, then Fort Lupton went ahead 3-1. The Pirates came back to score runs and the score was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth. Englewood kept Fort Logan from scoring, but the Pirates had men in scoring position in the fifth inning, then loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth but didn’t score.
The game was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning and the first two Pirates batters were retired in order. That sent Tyler Harris to the plate. The count was 2-2 when Harris got a fastball down the middle of the plate and drove it well over the left field fence for a walk-off home run that gave the Pirates the 5-4 win.
“I wanted to make contact and I was looking for a curve ball because he threw me a curve and struck me out my last time to bat,” Harris said after the game. “The pitch was right down the middle of the plate and I swung the bat hard.”
He said he hardly felt the contact and it was almost like taking a practice swing.
“I knew I really hit the ball hard when I looked up to see it was a high, long drive,” he said with a smile. “For a split second, I thought it might not make the fence, but then I was sure it would clear the fence and be way out of the park. I’ve hit other homers but this may be the longest home run I have ever hit.”
The ball cleared the fence above the 340-foot sign and the coaches estimate it probably was a 370- or maybe even a 390-foot drive.
Englewood sent Brayden Newkirk to the mound against Fort Lupton and the senior went the distance.
“I felt good out there on the mound,” Newkirk said after the game. “I did have some trouble getting my fastball in the strike zone but my curve was working real well. My curve breaks from outside to the inside and is my best pitch.”
Newkirk struck out five and only gave up two hits. He said he throws well and is working to develop a split-finger fastball, which should be another strong pitch for him.
The senior plays shortstop when he isn’t on the mound. He said he likes playing shortstop best because it is fun to be in on all the action that goes on in the infield.