College baseball opening doors for Colorado athletes

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 6/18/19

It’s been slow — like an off-speed changeup — for people to realize, but big-time college baseball is no longer a long shot for players who participate in Colorado high school baseball. …

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College baseball opening doors for Colorado athletes


It’s been slow — like an off-speed changeup — for people to realize, but big-time college baseball is no longer a long shot for players who participate in Colorado high school baseball.

Arkansas sophomore catcher Casey Opitz, who played at Heritage High School in Littleton, made his second straight trip last weekend to Omaha, Nebraska for the 2019 College World Series.

“Absolutely, Colorado has college baseball players,” said Opitz. “Talent comes from all over. You have to work hard for it. They will find you, that’s their job.

“You have to put in the effort. Depending on how you play, a big school will find you. If they don’t find you right away, you can go to a smaller school and they will find you there. No matter where you are from, they will find you.”

Casey Opitz’s older brother Jeff, manager of the Colorado Rockies’ Grand Junction Rookie League team who played for Nebraska as a freshman in the 2005 College World Series, agrees that Colorado does produce Division I baseball players.

“I’ve said that for years,” said Jeff Opitz. “There is a lot of good talent in Colorado, a lot of good homegrown talent. There are always some elite players.”

Casey Opitz was one of three former area high school players on rosters of College World Series teams.

Matthew Schmitz, a senior at Michigan who transferred from Cypress College, is a reserve first baseman who played in 14 games this season and hit .167 for the Wolverines. He is a former Regis Jesuit player who resides in Parker.

Tanner O’Tremba, a freshman who played at Cherry Creek, is a Texas Tech outfielder who played in 31 games prior to the World Series and hit .267 with 20 runs batted in. He delivered a key double in an 8-6 Super Regional win over Oklahoma State on June 9 and had seven RBIs in an early-season game against Kentucky.

Casey Opitz, who played in 19 games as a freshman, is the Razorbacks’ No. 1 catcher this season and has been a solid leader for the pitching staff. He caught a Southeast Conference-leading 21 base runners attempting to steal.

He headed to Omaha with a .246 batting average after going 4-for-9 with five RBIs in three games against Ole Miss in the Super Regional.

A few of the adjustments from high school to college baseball included stronger, faster players and more games.

“You really have to be able to take care of yourself — it’s such a long season,” said Casey Opitz. “The first adjustment is how much baseball you play on a daily basis. I wouldn’t call it a job, it’s still fun.

“This year figuring out what works for me and what I need to work on was an improvement. It was easier on the catching part to come in and work with guys and figure out what I can do for them.

“It is unbelievable to be a part of some of the best teams in college baseball at the College World Series. It is great to have a bunch of family out here and it’s cool to come back here to see all them and play in front of them again.”

Time to celebrate

Golden High School graduate Lindsay Horan scored in the 32nd minute and Mallory Pugh who played at Mountain Vista tallied in the 85th minute in the USA women’s soccer team’s record-breaking 13-0 World Cup win over Thailand on June 11.

However, most of the attention was centered on celebrations by the Americans after each goal in the rout, which has coach Jill Ellis defending her players.

I’m the first to admit I don’t like to see exaggerated celebrations after touchdowns, home runs, goals, winning 50-foot putts or whatever. Celebrate but don’t make it a jamboree.

However, the social media criticism directed at the American women is undeserved.

First of all, this was a World Cup match in the ultimate international tournament and goals should be celebrated. Plus, there is the goal differential, which is so important and a reason why teams can’t afford to let up on any opponent.

I have watched many tournaments in the past few years where that one additional goal during the second match would have made a difference in advancing.

What should be noted are the actions by the Americans toward the disappointed Thai players after the match.

Thai coach Nuengruethai Sathongwien thanked the Americans who encouraged her overmatched players to keep fighting and keep their heads up.

Soccer Hall of Famer

Whitney (Hollis) Longmeir, a Highlands Ranch resident and graduate of Columbine High School, was one of five members of the 1996-99 women’s soccer team who were inducted into the Santa Clara University Hall of Fame. Longmeir, a midfielder who had 15 goals and 11 assists in the 87 career games in which she played, was a member of teams that went 89-9-4 and outscored their opponents 108-98 in four seasons.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.


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