BROOMFIELD — Label Devlin Granberg a dirt bag. It’s OK. He won’t be offended.
“They call basketball players gym rats and they call baseball players dirt bags when they never stop,” Holy Family coach Marc Cowell said. “He’s a dirt bag.”
The Holy Family sophomore shortstop couldn’t be prouder of that tag. Although he is in only his second year of high school, Cowell has already dubbed Granberg one of the best hitters he’s ever had — with an argument for the best. Cowell has no qualms about endorsing him for the Class 3A player of the year.
That’s high praise from a decade-long coach whose team always seems to find its way to the deeper rounds of the Class 3A state tournament. The numbers, though, bear that out.
“The big thing was starting my freshman year, getting the needed experience under my belt,” Granberg said. “This year, I’m just seeing the ball a lot better.”
Keeping in mind it’s the first season with the reduced-trampoline-effect bats, baseballs seem to be rocketing off of Granberg’s bat just fine. Entering Friday’s elimination game against Eaton (2:30 p.m., Butch Butler Field in Greeley), his stat line is quite astonishing: .568 average, 48 runs scored, 36 RBIs and a whopping 20 extra-base hits in 81 at-bats (10 doubles, five triples, five home runs).
“I actually like the new bats. They still really have some good pop,” Granberg said. “They have a little bit more pop than wood, even though some people still say that wood has more.”
The Tigers (17-6) need to defeat Eaton and then win some combination of two games Saturday to capture the title, at least one of them against Brush, the lone team to knock off Holy Family in the double-elimination tourney. While Granberg will try to further polish his gaudy numbers, he has already made his mark in Greeley.
Most impressive was his two-homer, six-RBI performance in a win against Olathe. Granberg belted a grand slam in the first inning, but it was his second homer that had local reporters buzzing that it was the longest they’d ever seen at Butch Butler.
“I know he’s always had that great swing,” Holy Family junior Adrian Do said. “Everything about his game is spot on. I knew he had it in him, but he must just be seeing the ball really well. He’s getting hot at the right time.”Then again, maybe such prowess is to be expected from a dirt bag.
“He wants to really excel at the sport and that’s really showing this year,” Cowell said. “If he’s not eating, sleeping or studying he’s playing baseball.”
In order to play more baseball, Holy Family must start by winning Friday. The Tigers defeated Eaton 5-4 at Coors Field in the regular season, and always seem to be in a grind-it-out battle against the perennially contending Reds (20-4).
Pitcher Louis Simpson (5-3), part of a senior class that graduated Thursday morning, will start on the mound. Players such as Do (pronounced Dough), who earned a win in relief in last week’s first-round upset of top-seeded Faith Christian, also will be ready in a win-or-go-home situation.
“I’m always going to be ready just in case,” Do said. “But we have a great staff here, so hopefully the starters can go deep into games.”
Catcher Chris McManus sent Holy Family to the Coors Field win against Eaton with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh. While that game is somewhat of a distant memory, each team likely will spin the result positively.
“I think it goes both ways,” Cowell said. “I’m sure Eaton is using that as motivation. They’ll want a little payback, I’m sure. On our side, we know we can compete. It’s not going to be an issue of ‘can we?'”
That is not an issue for Granberg, either. More likely, it’s ‘can-we-get-him-out?’ for opponents. In three state games, the 6-foot-2 budding star has gone 5 for 12 with eight RBIs.
Granberg understands his teammates will have to perform similarly for the Tigers to go from an eight-seeded afterthought to start the tourney to champs on Saturday.
“We’re going to have to play our best ball of the season, no doubt,” Granberg said. “We’re going to have to take that intensity that we brought in the wins against Faith and Olathe and bring it every single pitch. We’ve said it all season that each pitch needs our utmost attention.”
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