Aspen’s Cole is Slope baseball’s player of year

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy Kathy Dreher Aspen junior Anderson Cole delivers against Basalt on April 7 in El Jebel.

ASPEN ” Anderson Cole made things rather easy for second-year Aspen baseball coach Nate Grinzinger this spring.

“You know, I told his dad once that I feel like I’m in a video game ” I’m calling pitches and he’s just hitting them,” Grinzinger said Friday. “He has such good control for a high school kid.”

Cole’s eye-catching numbers, which included a no-hitter and a perfect game in successive starts, are proof of that. The junior was so dominant in 2009 that he made a believer out of all of the 3A Western Slope’s coaches, who recently named him conference player of the year. He finished ahead of Cedaredge standout Chaunce Lindley, last year’s winner.

The honor also earns Cole a spot on the state’s 3A All-State first team.

Sophomore Taylor Mayer joined Cole on the Slope’s first team, while senior catcher Zach Maraziti garnered honorable mention.

“It was actually sort of surprise for me. I’m really excited and honored,” Cole said Friday. “It feels great that the team did really well. We put Aspen baseball back on the map, and I’m glad I was a part of it.”

Cole was an integral part of that resurgence ” from a handful of wins in 2008 to a 12-8 mark, a postseason appearance and an upset of sixth-ranked Denver Lutheran in the first round of districts. He went 7-0 with a save and allowed just two earned runs in 45 innings pitched during the regular season. He amassed a minuscule .33 ERA and struck out 65 batters in those starts ” an average of more than 10 per seven innings.

Cole no-hit reigning league-champion Cedaredge and hurled a perfect game against Coal Ridge. Grinzinger said he knew Cole was in for a special season right from the start.

“Coming into that first game against Grand Valley, he had missed some time due to basketball and hadn’t really thrown a baseball in two weeks, maybe a month,” Grinzinger said. “He went out and threw a two hitter … and had pin-point location.

“He outdid my expectations honestly. … It’s safe to say you might not find another pitcher who puts up stats like that in the next decade. I can say that with ease.”

Cole’s greatest performance might have come in the district round. He pitched seven strong innings, surrendering two hits and two runs to a Denver Lutheran team that entered the game with a 15-3 record and a collective batting average of .372. The effort, coupled with clutch hitting, propelled the 27th-seeded Skiers to a win in their first playoff appearance in more than a decade.

“That hasn’t happened in like 15 or 20 years. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s ever happened,” Grinzinger said of the win. “They were shocked. They thought they had it in the bag. … [Cole] shut the door.

“As a coach, you sometimes think you see something no one else does. It was nice to see [opposing coaches] recognize how good a season Anderson really had.”

Cole wasn’t the only Aspen player to shine in 2009. Mayer led off the season with triples in his first two at-bats and continued to produce out of the leadoff spot. He swiped 20 bases and hit nearly .500.

Grinzinger has already tagged Mayer as 2010’s team captain.

“He’s got an intensity that a lot of other players don’t really have,” the coach added. “As a coaching staff, we like to bring to the table an aggressive, passionate approach to the game. He is the example of what we’re always talking about. … He’s all heart, and I love what he brings to the field.”

Grinzinger extended that same high praise to Maraziti, a player the coach called his best all-around player in terms of baseball acumen and raw talent. That talent was on display throughout the season as Maraziti, the lone senior in the starting lineup, was a force both at the plate and behind it.

He surrendered just one passed ball and was at his best in the postseason, piling up three hits and three RBIs, two of which came in the opening-round win.

“He is without question the best defensive high school catcher I’ve ever seen,” Grinzinger said. “What’s most impressive is that he got better as the season wore on. A lot of kids in that situation really want to go out with a bang and they press. … He was huge in the playoffs.

“You can’t replace Zach Maraziti.”

The return of Cole and Mayer and a crop of talented young players should make for a smooth transition in Maraziti’s absence.

What can fans expect for an encore in 2010? Cole has an idea.

“I heard about the guy who pitched four straight no-hitters on ESPN,” said Cole, referencing Mitchell High School (Fla.) senior Patrick Schuster. “I thought to myself, ‘Um, maybe next year.'”


See more