During his three seasons as a Cheyenne Mountain baseball player, Michael Ellis has not experienced much losing. He’s never had a batting average under .300, and he’s never lost a game as a starting or relief pitcher.
In 26 games while toeing the rubber — 13 starts — the junior right-hander is 13-0 with a career ERA under 3.00. He is 3-0 and has not surrendered a run in 13 innings this season. He has 13 strikeouts and eight walks.
But like most talented high school baseball players, Ellis is a multi-dimensional player. He is the Indians’ cleanup hitter and a gold glove-level fielding first baseman.
“In all my years of coaching, Michael is the best defensive first baseman I’ve ever had. Bar none,” said Cheyenne Mountain coach Mark Swope. “His hands are that good.”
It is no coincidence that Cheyenne Mountain has maintained its status as one of the most consistent programs in the state — at any level — during Ellis’ tenure.
The team came one game short of playing for the Class 4A state title in 2018. All Ellis did was go 8-0 as a pitcher with a 2.38 ERA and bat .355 with 12 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs.
Ellis is not your prototypical pitching ace. His fastball tops out at around 77 mph, and he typically doesn’t overpower batters. But he has an uncanny ability to wiggle out of just about every situation he gets into.
“He understands how to hold runners, and it seems that about every game he throws, there’s traffic on the bases,” Swope said. “He’s not a big power guy. He pitches backwards. He has really good control and a very good breaking ball. This year, we added a split-finger change, which has made a lot of difference.”
A right-hander, Ellis considers himself a “crafty” pitcher.
“I hit my spots,” Ellis said. “As I get older, knowing a lot of the kids who will face me, I’ve learned how to throw to certain batters.”
Out of batting cleanup, playing first base or pitching, Ellis likes pitching the best.
“The spotlight is kind of on you when you’re the starting pitcher,” he said. “You could say the same thing about batting cleanup, but there’s something about going out on the mound and knowing the whole team is rallying around you.”
The Indians’ catching duties are split between Devin Dodson and Donaven Jackson.
“He doesn’t have a lot of velocity, so all I care about is accuracy,” Jackson said. “With his speed, it throws off a lot of batters because he’s not that fast.”
Added Dodson: “Michael has a unique arm angle, and he’s able to hide the ball for a long time before he releases it. I think that throws the batters off.”
Ellis believes the Indians can make another deep playoff run.
“Our bats have to stay hot,” he said. “From here on out, the games are only going to get harder. As the season goes on, we have to make sure we’re progressing and not falling behind any part of the game.”