WESTMINSTER — Silver Creek graduate Austin Wood has the stuff on the mound to make college-aged batters flat out look silly. That was evident Saturday afternoon at Standley Lake, when Wood came on as a relief pitcher for the Superior Rough Riders and struck out the side in one of his two innings during a 6-1 team victory over the Denver Bats.
He had guys mixed up getting a couple via the looking strike, and only a couple of connected-on fastballs that found holes though the infield kept him from having an outstanding outing.
With little in the way of experience pitching to a complete lineup of college players, Wood is still just trying to better himself this summer before heading to Furman University in the fall.
But he's excited for the opportunity to learn under former minor league pitcher Chad Povich, the head coach for the Rough Riders who currently stand at 9-2 in the Rocky Mountain Baseball League.
"You get out of this what you put in, so for me this summer a big part of things is lifting and getting in college shape, but I get to come out and throw against college type hitters with a college type defense behind me," said Wood, one of several Boulder County athletes on the team. "It's really just each time trying to be a little bit better than the last time.
"Being able to learn from Chad, a lot of the mechanical things sure help but it's really about the mental side of the game. He's been through different levels and in different leagues, and you pick up stuff you just never even realize. Learning how to (be a reliever), how to switch that mentality on... stuff like that has made it really cool."
Wood had a good senior season for the Raptors, netting four wins and a sub-3.00 ERA as a hurler who already had that scholarship wrapped up prior to the season. While Furman may still consider him as a position player because of his ability to hit, Wood has the desire to pitch at the next level.
Povich wants to help get him there, too. With a number of starting pitchers on the squad with college innings under their belts, Wood has been pinned as a reliever right now, but Povich — a graduate of Legacy who averaged a bout a strikeout an inning in his three years of minor-league play — sees the work paying off.
"It's kind of tough for a bullpen guy to get innings right now, especially on our team. But I'm going to get him in there as much as I can because he is working to get time," Povich said. "The first time we had him in he got a 1-2-3 (inning) and we got him back out today and he did a good job again. He guys off balance swinging.
"Mentality is huge and he knows he is going to face good hitters. The key for him is to get a routine and stay in it. He is on a good track now, getting stronger in the gym on weekdays and coming out here and getting his skill work in."
On Saturday, Wood was in attack mode as the Rough Riders were already ahead 6-0 in the fifth inning. After giving up a run in the middle of three strikeouts in the fifth, he came back and sent the Bats down in order in the sixth frame. He did get a major-league play from second baseman Matt Ayala for his final out, and having fielders like Tommy Baumgartner (Boulder) and Jake Thoning (Fairview) manning the left side of the infield helped his confidence.
"You get a lot more confidence pitching with guys behind you who want to (make plays)," Wood said.
The Rough Riders staked themselves to a 4-0 lead after two innings by batting around in the second frame. Carter Boswell and Ayala had back-to-back doubles to drive in runs and the team drew four walks in the inning.
Former Raptor Cason Winn singled and scored in the inning, as well.
They will look to continue their hot start Sunday against the Slammers.
Superior Rough Riders 6, Denver Bats 1
At Standley Lake HS
Bats 000 010 0 — 1 6 0
Rough Riders 040 200 x — 6 8 0
W — Tarantola.
Rough Riders hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ayala 3-0-2-1, Adkins 3-1-1-1, Thoning 2-0-0-0, Peterson 1-1-0-0, Peevyhouse 4-0-1-2, Bryniarski 3-1-0-0, Baumgartner 3-0-1-0, Winn 3-1-1-0, Boswell 2-2-2-2. Totals 24-6-8-6. 2B — Ayala, Boswell 2.
Rough Riders pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Tarantola 4-3-0-0-2-5, Wood 2-2-1-1-0-3, Hammergren 1-1-0-0-0-2.
Superior Rough Riders 7, Denver Bats 2
Bats 000 101 0 — 2 7 0
Rough Riders 201 121 x — 7 11 1