Cheyenne Mountain pitcher Aspen Atkins knows she can keep opposing batters off-balance with her signature riseball. Heck, she's been perfecting it the past three years at this level.
So on Tuesday, when she took the mound in her team's first game of the season and found out within the first few batters that the home plate umpire was calling a high strike zone, Atkins knew she could dominate.
On a picture-perfect afternoon, Atkins threw six innings and only gave up one unearned run. Her offense scored 10 runs by the end of the fourth inning, and the Indians made quick work of host Mesa Ridge with a 10-1 rout.
"Aspen was terrific. I mean she had great stuff and hit the strike zone over and over," Cheyenne Mountain coach Mike Simon said of Atkins, who threw 67 percent of her pitches for strikes. "That's exactly what we want her to do. Once she saw the strike zone was high too, she used it to her advantage. That's what veteran players do."
Bridget Gleason and Hayley Cobb each added three RBIs for the Indians who scored three runs in the second, three in the third and four in the fourth.
"It was a pretty good day for us, but we don't need to settle," said Cobb, the catcher. "We need everyone to step up for us to get where we want to go this season. That means getting better here, at practice and on your own time, too."
If the expectations sound urgent for the Indians, they are. Cheyenne Mountain returns both starting pitchers from a year ago, as well as big bats like Cobb's and the Gleason sisters'.
The goal for all of them? At least the regional playoffs, then perhaps the state tournament. But Tuesday, Simon took a step back and just enjoyed what he saw from Game?1 of the season.
"Pitchers and catchers did what they needed to do. Defense made plays when the ball was hit and the offense got timely hits - hard to ask more from them this early than that," Simon said.
Meanwhile, Mesa Ridge is still finding its identity. The Grizzlies lost five starting seniors from a year ago and have no true starting pitchers on the roster.
"Our shortstop Clorinda (Roberts) started for us (on the mound) today," Grizzlies coach Al Bustillos said. "We'll probably have to use multiple arms a game, but we'll see. We're young. We have a lot of talent though, we'll be OK."
Mesa Ridge (0-2) will look for its first win of the season when the Grizzlies head to Pueblo East on Saturday while Cheyenne Mountain (1-0) will host Lewis-Palmer on Monday.