They had played all of one game in 2020 (because of the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic), they were taking on Colorado’s largest school with a legendary coach on the verge of making another batch of history and the crowd at Bill Swift Field was probably the largest the school has seen – including a much-missed student section -- in any sport in two years.
So what did the Mullen Mustangs do on a brilliant spring Thursday afternoon?
They stepped up and won their 2021 opener in rousing fashion, 8-2 over visiting Cherry Creek in the Centennial League.
The release of actually getting to play and winning a game, especially against the always good Bruins, rivalled the suddenly glorious weather that graced Southwest Denver.
“I’ve never beaten Creek (as a coach), so it’s awesome for the program,” Mustangs head coach Nick Arcuri said. “The kids have worked hard and they earned it.”
The Mustangs had been 4-19 against Cherry Creek since the end of the 2007 season, but came up with sound pitching and timely hitting.
Starter and winner Trevor Moore, a Mustangs junior right-hander who has committed to Stanford classified his five-inning outing “as a little rough at times, but I would say the team was right behind me, give it to them … the bats were there and they had an outstanding game.”
The Bruins led once, at 1-0 in the top of the third inning, before Mullen took over – the Mustangs piled up 11 hits, four for extra bases. Henry Stewart led way, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and two runs batted in, including a sacrifice fly. Every starter but Moore hit safely, including a key, two-run single by freshman Ben Krza in the fourth to give Mullen the lead for good, and a two-run home run by Owen Marsh in the fifth to break it open.
Andres Terrones-Garcia was 2-for-3 and Colin MacKenzie, Luca Maffoni, Andrew Brady and Sage Hurley also joined the hit parade.
On the mound, Moore struck out 10, walked four and hit a batter, but pitched out of trouble and overmatched the Bruins when necessary. Marsh pitched the final two innings.
“We’re not flashy,” Arcuri said, “just consistent and we keep coming. Overall, besides the two bonehead plays (for errors), we played pretty good defense, we hit well and pitched well.”
Said Stewart: “We’re excited and I think we have a special team.”
The two teams will meet in Greenwood Village at 2 p.m. as the Centennial again will offer a back-to-back schedule
Mullen also kept Bruins coach Marc Johnson, a 49-year man on the job who also was run over in the seventh by one of his players while circling third base, from winning his 807th game that would tie him with former Eaton boss Jim Danley for tops in state history.
“Marc Johnson runs a great program and I played with him (in the off-season) for two years,” Moore said. “He’s an amazing guy, I love him and we’ll see him Saturday.”
MULLEN 8, CHERRY CREEK 2
Cherry Creek 001 010 0 -- 2 6 2
Mullen 001 232 x – 8 11 2
Cherry Creek – Dorighi ss 2-1-1-0, Mason 2b 4-0-2-0, Marsh 3b 4-0-1-1, Barkley 1b 4-0-0-0, Melun rf 1-0-0-0, Wood lf 2-0-0-0, Barta cf 3-0-1-0, Alley dh 2-1-1-0, Herrick p 0-0-0-0, Merlo c 3-0-0-0, Haines p 0-0-0-0, Melun p 0-0-0-0. Totals 25-2-6-2.
Mullen – Mackenzie lf 3-0-1-0, Maffoni rf 4-2-1-0, Brady ss 4-1-1-0, Moore p 3-0-0-0, Newton 1b 0-0-0-0, Stewart cf 3-2-3-2, Marsh 1b-p 4-1-1-2, Hurley 2b 2-1-1-0, Terrones-Garcia 3b 3-1-2-0, Krza c 3-0-1-2. Totals 29-8-11-6.
E – Brady, Dorighi, Barta, Stewart. SAC – Wood. LOB – Cherry Creek 9, Mullen 6. Caught stealing – Mason, Wood.
2B – Stewart 2, Maffoni, Brady. HR – Moore, 1 on in 5th.
Batteries – Herrick, Haines (5), Melun (6) and Merlo; Moore, Marsh (6) and Krza. W – Moore (1-0). L – Herrick (0-2). WP – Herrick, Moore 2, Melun 2. HBP – Melun (by Moore). SF – Stewart. T – 2:26.