If the first game of Sunday evening's doubleheader had ended after the fourth inning, it would have been a picture perfect home opener for the Boulder Collegians.
Back at Scott Carpenter Park on a beautiful night after a 22-year hiatus, the Collegians and more than 175 of their fans celebrated the return of one of the most successful sports teams in Boulder's history.
With their mascot riding to home plate on a motorcycle, the Collegians donning throwback 1970s jerseys, and a Boulder History Museum booth chock full of Collegians memorabilia, the festive pregame atmosphere fit the occasion.
That excitement lasted up until the fifth inning. With Boulder leading 6-1, Hunter Brown, Bill Germaine, and Matt McLean each homered in the fifth and sixth innings for the visiting Denver Cougars, whose late-inning rally led to a 13-6 victory against the Collegians.
"I loved the electricity that we had at the start of the game," Collegians coach Brett Manning said. "It tailed off a little bit."
Two five-spots in the fateful fifth and sixth innings took the wind out of Boulder's sails. After three innings of one-run ball from Craig Nicks, the trio of Austin Roberts, Ryan Norton and Drew Clark gave up 12 runs on 11 hits -- just as the Collegians' bats went silent.
Boulder sent the minimum number of batters to the plate in each of the final three innings, after slugging six runs in the first four.
"No lead is really safe in this league, when you've got a lot of good hitters," Collegians general manager Matt Jensen said.
Despite the rough ending of the first game -- which was played as a league game for the Rocky Mountain Baseball League standings -- Jensen and Manning were quick to acknowledge that the atmosphere was exactly what they wanted.
"We're trying to create a minor league atmosphere with inter-inning entertainment and giveaways and all that," Manning said. "It was really fun watching our mascot come out on the motorcycle, we got to throw on the old Collegians (uniforms) and bring some history back to the game."
"The atmosphere is great," Jensen said. "I think the community is really rallying around what we're trying to do, as evidenced by the amount of people that are coming out to our ballgames."
Even local celebrities were on hand to watch the game. Former University of Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn made an appearance to watch his mother, Marlyn, throw out the first pitcher. Marlyn, whom Jensen introduced over the P.A. system as the "grandmother of Boulder baseball," was the first female Little League president west of the Mississippi.
Mike Bohn reminisced about shagging foul balls as a young boy for the Collegians in their heyday of the '60s and '70s. He would bring each foul ball to the nearby King Soopers, take his reward of a dime, and pool together his money with friends to buy doughnuts.
"Anytime you see history and how they embraced it, the way Bauldie Moschetti and the original Collegians put it together, it's impressive," Mike Bohn said. "I salute the organizational leaders who are trying to pull this together."
The Collegians continue their season Monday with a doubleheader against the Rockhounds.
Denver Cougars 13, Boulder Collegians 6
At Scott Carpenter Park
Denver Cougars 001 055 2 --13 15 1
Boulder Collegians 013 200 0 -- 6 7 1
W -- Costanza. L -- Roberts.
Denver Cougars hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Arrington 3-0-0-0, Splichal 4-2-1-0, Cerullo 5-3-4-0, Vincent 2-3-1-1, Germaine 2-1-1-3, Brown 4-1-1-3, Martinez 2-2-1-1, McLean 5-1-1-2, Nicolosi 3-0-1-1, Bird 2-0-0-0. Totals 32-13-15-10. 2B -- Cerullo 2, Martinez. 3B -- None. HR -- Brown (two on in fifth), Germaine (two on in sixth), McLean (one on in sixth). SB -- Martinez.
Boulder Collegians hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Shaw 3-2-1-1, Houska 2-0-0-1, Guegan 4-1-2-2, Harrison 3-0-0-0, Reynolds 3-0-1-0, Byfield 2-1-0-0, Bukowski 3-1-2-1, Dibble 3-0-1-1, Grossman 1-1-0-0. Totals 24-6-7-6. 2B -- Reynolds, Bukowski, Dibble. 3B -- None. HR -- None. SB -- Shaw, Dibble, Grossman.
Denver Cougars pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Kannenberg 3-4-4-3-3-1, Costanza 4-3-2-2-3-2.
Boulder Collegians pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Nicks 3-4-1-1-1-1, Roberts 21/3-8-8-4-1, Norton 1-1-3-3-3-1, Clark 2/3-0-0-0-2-0.