PHOENIX, Ariz. – Pitching at the Class 3A level is always a bit of an adventure. Successful baseball teams tend to have at least two frontline starters with a serviceable thrower in the No. 3 spot.

In the playoffs, that’s essential. In the regular season, it can be troublesome at times.

Take the Manitou Springs baseball team. On the surface, the Mustangs have three guys that they are comfortable having on the mound at any given time. But the overall depth behind those three isn’t as strong as they would like. Not currently, anyway.

Playing nine games in a two-and-a-half week stretch has been taxing to say the least, but it was a 9-3 loss to Kent Denver that made coach Brandon DeMatto aware that something needed to change.

Canon Feist got through six innings and gave up just two runs in that stretch. It wasn’t until he got into the seventh that things turned south. The Mustangs gave up seven runs in that inning on the way to the loss. It was then that DeMatto discussed a different strategy with his team and with his coaching staff.

“We were up 3-0 and got gassed late with Canon and at that point, we had played so many games leading up to that we were just hurting arm-wise,” DeMatto said. “We figured it was time to do something different so that at the end of the game, the most important part of the game, we can close it out with a guy that has more confidence and experience in tough positions.”

So he reversed things. DeMatto is sending out his relievers to start the games and bringing in his traditional starters to close them out. It’s an approach he’ll take in non-league contests as Tri-Peaks games consist of double-headers where he’ll have all three of his big arms available.

(Dan Mohrmann/

It gives game day a bit of a different feel for those guys who traditionally head to the mound to start things off.

“It’s different because we bring in the closer to start off games just to get through those first few innings and then bringing in our big guys,” sophomore Hayden Martinez said. “It’s a bit of an adjustment but I keep my routine the same, we’re keeping our whole routine the same and we just go from there.”

An additional side-effect is the need for the offense to get in gear early. With this adjustment, it’s only natural that the Mustangs will surrender runs on the front end rather than on the back end when the starters start losing steam.

“It puts pressure on us as hitters to get going instead of trying to lock things down on defense,” senior shortstop Andrew Rhodes said. “We know with our starters our defense is solid and at that point we can relax and put the ball in play.”

The Coach Bob Invitational and Pride Classic was the perfect testing lab for this experiment. The Mustangs went 2-1 over three days. DeMatto started relievers Logan Moore and Afton Lindner in Game 1 and Game 2, respectively. Then Martinez and Feist took over.

The Mustangs (5-4 overall) lost to Blanchet Catholic (Ore.) 13-4 before beating Baker/Powder Valley (Ore.) 18-9 and Astoria (Ore.) 19-6 to cap off the trip.

The Mustangs return home and will face Sand Creek on April 4 before heading to Salida next weekend to open up league play.