LAFAYETTE — In the dog days of summer, playing clean, hard-nosed baseball is the least that Centaurus American Legion A head coach Doug Kinney can ask for from his team.
On Thursday, however, the Warriors looked like they were playing for a bit more as they opened the Colorado Legion A state tournament that was in fact being hosted at their field.
After a couple of decent-but-not great spring seasons and a positive 2018 summer so far, Centaurus rolled out one of their best efforts yet in an 8-2 victory over Fairview.
Not only was an error-free defense manning the diamond behind starting pitcher Nick Van Tassel and eventually long reliever David Jachemiak, but the defense made some tough plays look pretty routine in the late afternoon win over the Knights.
It brought the Warriors, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, a Friday winner's bracket matchup against No. 2 Fort Morgan in the seven-team, double-elimination tournament.
After an 11-7 league season, Kinney said the players have taken on a prideful demeanor with hosting the tournament, and it showed out on the field.
"I think the guys have taken ownership of this tournament and what it means, and to be able to know what the American Legion stands for," said Kinney, who also has Dawson School head coach Joe McKenzie on his staff along with a handful of Mustangs players. "We are pretty happy that they chose us this year as their host field, and I think it's time our kids have that exposure. Hopefully it helps move us forward.
"Fairview is a good team with great kids, and it's always a good opportunity in the summer to play them."
The Warriors flashed the leather throughout the game, got two runners out on the bases to end potentially more-fruitful FHS at-bats, all the while taking advantage of a couple of Fairview errors for a key four-run fourth inning.
That was more than enough for the young Jachemiak, who come on in the bottom of the third and carried the team on his back the rest of the way.
"I felt like we were a lot more confident out there on the field and had a lot more swagger than they did," said Jachemiak, who is approaching his sophomore year in school. "The defense played really great behind me. I was on the B team most of the summer, and junior varsity for the spring, so it was great to get a chance to play on 'A' and get to show my skills."
Fairview had eight hits, but could not escape from a couple of baserunning mistakes in the first and fourth innings — both in delayed double-steal attempts.
In the first, Van Tassel was wise to step off the pitching rubber to get Luke Silverman caught in a rundown between first and second base and with two outs.
Then in the fourth inning, with runners at first and third again and two outs, Van Tassel was responsible for cutting off a Henry Ziegert throw down to second and get the ball back home as Jackson Harig was barreling down the third base line. The putout kept Centaurus ahead 4-2, and the Warriors ended up tacking four more runs (three unearned) on the board their very next turn at bat.
"They come ready to play, come with the attitude of get the job done, whatever it takes," Kinney said. "Play solid baseball and control the game from the bump. That's our philosophy."
Marcus Vanzee had two hits for Centaurus, and Myles Meskers had two hits and scored three times from the bottom on the order.
In other action, Holy Family beat Northridge 10-0 to put the No. 4 seed Tigers in Friday's other winner's game against No. 1 Windsor — who had a bye in the first round.
Skyline, the No. 7 seed, lost 3-0 to Fort Morgan and will meet Fairview in an elimination game.